Samsung's SAFE for Galaxy S III aims to help IT embrace Android

Device encryption, mobile device management software integration rivals BlackBerry Enterprise Server, analyst said

Samsung announced a new program on Monday to help enterprise IT shops feel more confident about allowing workers to use the coming Galaxy S III smartphone on the job.

Galaxy S III smartphones sold by all five U.S. mobile carriers starting later in June and early July will be branded SAFE, for Samsung Approved For Enterprise.

The SAFE program means Samsung has set up support and quality assurance for 338 smartphone management policies important to IT, including 256-bit encryption on the device, enhanced support for Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync, support for leading VPN software and for a number of mobile device management systems.

The new 4.8-in. Android 4.0 smartphone will be sold starting in late June or July from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and US Cellular. Most list the price as $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Some U.S. carriers have begun taking pre-orders for the smartphone, and Samsung officials said Friday that one of the biggest U.S. carriers has seen 44% of the pre-orders being made by business users. Either business customers pay for the devices themselves on their own accounts, or companies set up accounts for their workers and pay for them.

Android hasn't been the top choice of IT shops for ease in management partly because there are so many OS versions and models available, analysts have noted. Still, Android devices make up half of the smartphones sold around the globe, and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is in full swing, analysts said. Samsung is the largest producer of Android smartphones.

"Android has the ability to blow that [manageability] door right open, with Samsung dragging Android through the enterprise," Timothy Wagner, vice president and general manager of Samsung enterprise sales, told Computerworld. "We're systematically going after the enterprise customer, on the most desirable device we can offer."

Wagner said other Android smartphone makers have set up quality assurance programs for IT manageability with a single carrier, but this is the first time such a program will work across five carriers.

To provide SAFE quality assurance, Samsung has offered a software development kit to MDM and VPN providers with access to Samsung's Application Programming Interfaces, allowing those vendors to integrate their software on the SAFE devices for each different wireless carrier, Wagner said.

Wagner said Samsung is also in the process of gaining FIPS compliance for the Galaxy S III; this is important to healthcare, government and financial firms. Samsung has won FIPS compliance on the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi tablet from Verizon Wireless. SAFE will be certified on other tablets in the future, Wagner said.

The MDM vendors Samsung has worked most closely with for the Galaxy S III launch include Afaria, MobileIron, AirWatch and SOTI, Wagner said. A large enterprise would need to have MDM software installed in its data center to offer the full benefits of the integration with the Galaxy S III, although ActiveSync does offer some MDM capabilities useful for small and midsize businesses, Wagner said.

MDM can be used by corporations to control how many or what kind of apps their workers use, as well as to remotely wipe data from lost devices. MDM sometimes is also a tool to help IT distribute apps from its own internal app stores or public app stores.

Because of the SAFE compliance, Wagner said a worker can buy a Galaxy S III and "go into the office and show the IT guy that it complies," Wagner said. "We know the demand for Android is there and workers want to bring them to work. With SAFE, the IT compliance issue should go down."

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