There’s been a lot of buzz around Samsung this week: On Wednesday they finally released the first ever smartphone running the Tizen operating system. Later on Wednesday there were rumors (which were quickly denied) that Samsung is in talks to acquire BlackBerry.
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All this is on top of an interesting and active 2014:
- First Samsung revamped Knox and announced EMM and identity and access management products.
- Later they contributed Knox’s software data separation features to Android, creating the basis for the upcoming Android Work.
- In general, Samsung’s Android phones don’t have the momentum and dominance they used to.
- And uptake of Knox devices for high security and government hasn’t been great.
- At the end of the year, Samsung and BlackBerry announced a partnership to hook Knox devices directly into BlackBerry’s infrastructure.
Whew! Between this week and all of 2014, Samsung has had a wild ride with a lot of changes. Let’s get down to what this means for EMM.
Hypothetical Tizen push
What’s Tizen? It’s a (nearly) open source Linux-based operating system targeted at a wide variety of devices; besides Samsung, the other major player behind it is Intel. This week marks the first time Samsung has actually released a Tizen-based smartphone. Called the Z1, it’s only available in India.
People have been talking for a while now about how Tizen could be the Android-alternative that enables Samsung to get out from under Google’s thumb, but bringing a new mobile OS on the market is hard! (I know we can all think of a million reasons why, so that’s all we need to say for now.)
But anyway, from a Samsung blogpost this week, it's clear that their current Tizen push is more about the Internet of Things and other connected devices than it is about phones. There’s no indication they’ll be giving up on Android any time soon.
Having said that, if and when Tizen phones show up in enterprise, it’ll be no problem.
First off, if Tizen phones do rise to that level of prominence, we can assume that Samsung will add some sort of Knox-like management framework to the flagship models. We know from their years of work on SAFE and Knox that they see value in EMM. Also for what it’s worth the new Z1 already has built in antivirus and a “private mode.”
Second, even if Tizen’s EMM features aren’t great (and in fact none appear to exist at the moment), the EMM industry can deal with that. That’s what third-party apps with built-in MAM features are for. EMM vendors have been doing this since way before iOS and Android, and they’ll keep on doing it for a long time.
And finally, the entry of a new mobile OS shouldn’t be a big shock to enterprise IT anymore. iPhones, iPads, BYOD, and consumerization may have snuck up on us at first, but now we’ve been there and done that. Tizen won’t be the same type of surprise.
Whatever happened behind the scenes to make Android Work happen, good job Samsung and Google. We don’t know for sure how everything’s going to shake out, but we’re definitely about to turn a corner with Android in the enterprise, regardless of what happens with Samsung and Knox.
Samsung, BlackBerry, and a range of options
Whether or not there’s any truth to the rumors of Samsung acquiring BlackBerry, between the two there are already several options for the enterprise. Security-minded companies that want to standardize on a specific device can:
- Use Knox devices and hook them up to any one of the many EMM vendors that support them.
- Use BB10 devices and BES.
- And soon, thanks to the partnership announced last year, connect Knox devices to the BlackBerry network infrastructure.
And what if the acquisition rumors are true? Well, we’d get all of the above, and probably more—we can dream up all sorts of software products and devices that could come from the combination of Samsung and BlackBerry.
But as others have pointed out earlier this week, there are two potential problems with Samsung acquiring BlackBerry. First, M&A activity by vendors with sensitive technology will bring huge regulatory hurdles. Second, customers (including governments) that trust BlackBerry might be hesitant to trust Samsung. But what are these customers to do? Build their own management systems? Lobby the Canadian government to stop the acquisition? (See the first point.) Get over it? I’m not sure what the answer is here, but if this week’s rumors are true, then we can expect that to be the big showdown.