Intel plans to offer secure, manageable Android on Atom devices. Here’s where this could be useful!

A few weeks ago back at Mobile World Congress, Intel announced their latest Atom processor, codenamed Merrifield. This new processor is going to bring some significant new MDM-related features, including deeper access for McAfee Mobile Security, improved Android management APIs, and OS-level corporate data containerization. Intel is calling this Intel Device Protection Technology (DPT), and they first mentioned it back at CES in January.

I talked to to Timothy Pettitt, a senior product manager in the Mobile Communications group at Intel, live on the show floor at Mobile World Congress to get an overview.

Here’s the basic breakdown of what Intel is offering with Intel DPT on Merrifield-based devices:

First, if you’re using the McAfee Mobility Security anti-virus product, it will be able to scan apps that users download before they’re actually installed. (Normally, this product can only scan apps after they’re installed.) It can also do delta-only scans of other files on the device, instead of scanning everything.

Second, there are enhanced Android mobile device management APIs. These are essential for any manufacturer that wants to target the enterprise Android market, since the MDM APIs that come with the basic version of Android are very basic. Intel DPT will augment them with options for silent app management, kiosk mode, app blacklisting and whitelisting, and generally a much wider range of remote configuration and command options.

Finally, Intel DPT goes as far as including a dual-persona framework that will keep enterprise apps and data encrypted and separated from users’ personal apps.

Of course the implementation of all these new features is dependent on what device manufacturers and EMM vendors decide to do, so we’ll have to wait until all of the puzzle pieces come together to know exactly everything will work.

There were no hardware announcements at Mobile World Congress, but they’re expected soon, including tablets from Dell. On the EMM vendor side, AirWatch, Citrix, and McAfee EMM will all be able to support Intel DPT.

(For more info, here’s the Intel DPT fact sheet and the Atom Z34XX (Merrifield) fact sheet.)

Where Merrifield devices could be awesome

Given the management difficulties presented by Android, Intel's MDM improvements are all but mandatory if Atom-based Android devices are to be taken seriously in the enterprise, so this move is definitely a welcome one.

As part of this discussion, I should point out that the use case for this type of specialized device is any scenario where, for various reasons, a company is still in business of providing devices. So while this isn't a solution for general BYOD issues, devices with Intel Device Protection Technology could be great for hospitals, schools, retail environments, public kiosks, industrial usage, or high security and regulated environments.

When it comes to management features for enterprise-deployed devices, there's a lot of established competition: Apple has made a lot of improvements recently (though there are still some hoops to jump through). Samsung has put in a lot of work, too, and now they're the standard to beat for enterprise features.

But now it's not too much of a stretch to think that many companies might be most comfortable buying Android tablets that say "Dell" on the outside and have Intel-based security on the inside. And in case you were wondering (and I know I was), these days Intel-based Android devices can access Google Play and run any normal Android app. 

So what do you think? Now that Intel Atom-based Android tablets will have all of these management features, will they be an attractive option?

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