Google-Android Knox, Love At First Hindsight

Two weeks ago Android for Work was announced at Google I/O. Beginning with Android ‘L’ devices, followed by updates to Android Ice Cream Sandwich and higher (4.0), Android smartphones will have Android for Work capabilities. Of particular interest was the announcement of Samsung Knox contribution. Now it remains unclear what exactly *contribution* means, but Knox is a very complex solution with various levels of security capabilities. Whatever the level of Knox contribution to Android for Work, both Google and Samsung should benefit, especially in developing markets.

First, enterprise mobility solutions have been focused on North America and Western Europe. This is understandable as these regions spend the most on mobility solutions and have the highest concentration of high-end devices. The biggest difference between these two regions is the focus on security and privacy as European government mandates have stricter policy controls around data. Outside of that, the markets are somewhat similar in that high-end devices are the preferred enterprise mobile device. Moreover, Apple smartphones and tablets are clear enterprise favorites with Android coming in second and Windows Phone gaining market share. What has hindered Android devices from gaining ground on Apple in the enterprise are concerns of fragmentation and security. Realizing these limitations, Samsung created and launched Knox as the secure Android solution.

While it is understandable to focus on North America and Western Europe for enterprise solutions, Android for Work with Knox should have a greater impact in developing markets. North America and Western European are growing steadily in enterprise mobility, but developing markets like the Asia-Pacific region are in a relative stage of infancy. Low-end devices are the norm for key growth markets in this region with market competitors being Windows Phone and BlackBerry. If enterprise mobility in North America and Western Europe is any indication, then Android and Samsung would soon face an uphill battle in the enterprise space as these markets progress in mobile enterprise maturity. To avoid repeating mistakes Android needed to improve security and fragmentation. By improving Android to offer a unified enterprise solution, as enterprise mobility initiatives grow so should Android adoption, and by extension Samsung as it is the leading provider of low-end Android smartphones.

Google needed to improve Android to be more competitive with Apple, Windows Phone and BlackBerry for enterprise dollars. Samsung readied the fight for Google and apparently showed Google how Android can be strengthened across all devices to alleviate fragmentation and security concerns. And to be honest, Samsung needed a helping hand from Google as Samsung Knox subscribers has been less than satisfactory. But the real opportunity and benefit from this arrangement will be seen in developing markets where consumers and enterprises alike simply cannot afford high-end smartphones. In developing markets, Android and Samsung have the dominant consumer market share thanks to low-end smartphones. By forming Android for Work with Knox, Google Android and Samsung should be able to extend consumer market share into the enterprise mobility segment as it begins to grow.