Samsung beefs up Knox mobile management software

Move follows Galaxy S5 with fingerprint reader

BARCELONA -- One day after announcing the Galaxy S5 smartphone with a security-focused fingerprint scanner, Samsung announced that second-generation Knox software for enterprise-level security and management of Samsung devices will ship sometime in the second quarter.

Knox 2.0 gives IT shops cloud-based purchasing and control of all Samsung services and apps, and launches a single sign-on for end users of Samsung gear, three Samsung officials said in a briefing prior to the announcement on Tuesday at Mobile World Congress.

Also, a Samsung Knox Marketplace apps store will be available as part of Knox 2.0. It offers, initially, 150 enterprise-focused apps that IT shops can make available to end users. Samsung plans to include Office 365 and Google Docs in the store.

As with other mobile device management (MDM) software products, Knox 2.0 does not allow end users to add their own applications to the work-side partition of its dual personality interface. Samsung joins BlackBerry and other vendors offering the ability to separate apps, emails and other services into two profiles: work and personal.

With the update, however, Samsung will allow some third-party MDM and enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors to run in an untrusted state on the personal side of a device. Software from MDM vendors Good, Mobile Iron and Fixmo will be allowed to run on the personal side. Good's software will work better on a Samsung device than any other device, Samsung asserted.

The cost of Knox 2.0 service will be $3.60 per user per month with pricing discounts for larger volumes. IT shops will be able to sign up for Knox software online.

Injong Rhee, Samsung's senior vice president of research for business-to-business mobile communication, led the Knox briefing for Computerworld. He was joined by Carl Nerup, vice president of global business development for regulated markets, and Timothy Wagner, vice president and general manager for the Samsung's U.S. enterprise business unit.

Samsung's original Knox was launched in October 2013 and is used by 1 million users on 10 device models, the Samsung executives said. In all, about 25 million Samsung devices are running Knox. The number of Knox-capable models will triple in 2014 to include the Galaxy S5 and other gear. Knox is used in 230 countries over 40 carrier networks.

Wearable devices, like Samsung's Galaxy Gear and a new Gear 2 smartwatch announced this week are expected to heighten management and security needs for enterprises, even as they are primarily tethered over Bluetooth to users' smartphones.

The Samsung officials said they are seeing keen interest in wearables from executives and workers in healthcare and financial services, where it a quick glance at a watch or other device can provide an alert on a patient's condition or sudden change in a stock price. Having that convenience and speed is seen as an immediate benefit with a smartwatch over searching for a smartphone in a pocket or purse, they said.

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