Samsung wants to make Android saferJune 18, 2012: 10:48 AM ET
People love Google's mobile operating system. Corporations? Not so much. Samsung is setting out to change that.
Enter top phonemaker Samsung, which has created an enterprise-ready seal of approval dubbed SAFE. New devices branded with the SAFE logo (including the new Galaxy S III, which will be available through AT&T (T), Verizon Wireless (VZ), Sprint (S) and T-Mobile later this month) come with built-in security features like VPN access, on-device encryption and support for mobile device management tools and Microsoft's (MSFT) Exchange ActiveSync.
Despite Android's popularity among consumers, the mobile platform is lagging behind in the enterprise. That's at least partly due to the so-called "fragmentation" of Android -- the fact that Google's (GOOG) operating system comes in many different versions and on many varying devices makes it hard to manage. Case in point: A recent report from Good Technology, a provider of mobile device management software, showed that Apple's (AAPL) iOS commands 37% of its corporate customers' new phone activations. Android came in second with 26%. The most popular Android device was the Motorola (MMI) Droid.
But as the newly crowned top phonemaker in the world, Samsung believes it can propel adoption of the Android platform in the enterprise. It's too early to tell how IT managers -- and consumers -- will react to the SAFE logo, but it's a smart move for Samsung to take a hands-on approach. The iPhone may still be the popular choice among mobile professionals, but with battered BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIMM) in fast decline and Microsoft's Windows phones still no where in sight, there's plenty of room for other phonemakers to start wooing IT managers. "We've seen this before," says Tim Wagner, VP and general manager of enterprise sales at Samsung. "Once desire becomes so large it's only a matter of time before it [a particular smartphone] becomes adopted in the enterprise."
Of course, Apple's iPhones and iPads have enjoyed the enterprise market with relatively little effort. But companies like PG&E and American Airlines are already rolling out Samsung's Android-running tablets. At PG&E (PCG), about 150 technicians are now using Samsung's Galaxy Tab to conduct leak surveys on the field. American Airlines has made the same Android-powered tablets available for passengers in business class cabins.
These are relatively small deployments, but they are likely to grow, despite IT's complaints about the difficulties of managing the multiple flavors of Android. If the consumer market is any indication—which it is—you can expect to see a lot more Android devices entering the workplace, with or without SAFE.