As noted in a previous post, I walked away underwhelmed from the Samsung’s smartphone and tablet offerings at Mobile World Congress. Mostly because there was little new.
Software actually played a dominant role in Samsung’s booth. The main focus was Knox (as in Fort), Samsung’s answer to enterprise security and be business friendly. I completely understand the need to make business feel that Samsung phones won’t be a security hold given the extent of malware attacks on the Android ecosystem. But the manner in which they approached this surprised me. Knox essentially creates a schizophrenic environment on your mobile phone – one personality for work and one for your personal life.
Certain documents, applications and other data are locked-down within the Work persona, ostensibly by your friendly neighborhood IT department. Then with a click of a button you are transported into your personal space where the color schemes, themes and apps are all completely different. Oh joy. You can’t even see your business calendar in the Personal zone. So helpful when you are trying to make an appointment for your child’s Parent-Teacher conference.
Personally I would NEVER be able to operate like this. On my phone I go between business and personal items all the time. The cognitive dissonance in switching between the two personas and forced interruption would be maddening. What’s funny is that this is exactly the same concept that was pilloried when Blackberry debuted it last month during the launch of BB10. I wonder whether Samsung will be given any grief at all.
And while elements of Knox is based on AirWatch’s technology, it’s not anywhere near as elegant a solution.
Further it completely flies in the face of some of Samsung’s most recent ads where a guy, mocking a Blackberry user, says he can work on his spreadsheet, while watching a basketball game (see clip below). Perhaps he just happens to have a sports-crazed IT department.
In trying to position Samsung as business-friendly, they also launched their Samsung Enterprise Application Partner program. They had several companies showing Knox-certified apps in the Samsung booth, including SAP and Dropbox. But at least in talking with a representative from Dropbox, the Dropbox for Teams app isn’t specific to Android or Knox. The same functionality is available on iOS.
Will Knox be a Fork in the Road?
What I wonder is whether Knox as a security layer will evolve into some sort of fork of Android. It’s unclear if a Knox-certified app will run unaltered on a Motorola, HTC or LG Android phone. I’m sure that there are marketing advantages to being a part of the SEAP program though. But if it requires maintaining a separate code-base I don’t see how it gets much traction. If it doesn’t, why bother?
What’s your thoughts? Am I being too harsh? Am I missing something?