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Samsung's Knox Penetrates the Pentagon

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Samsung's new Galaxy S4 smartphone, which will be equipped by the company's new Know security suite, represents the first Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android-powered device to receive approval from the U.S. Department of Defense. The new security measures available from Samsung – which are, in fact named after Fort Knox and not a catchy acronym – stand as a testament against all those who once claimed that Android could never be sufficiently secure for DoD approval. While the news is a blow for rival BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) , which has stood as the preferred choice of DoD personnel, it is a major win for Samsung and Google, and harbinger of things to come.

What is Knox?
For anyone not familiar with the security measures that have made BlackBerry devices so popular -- its system is named Balance -- the software allows a hard division to exist within the smartphone that partitions work apps and data from personal items. Essentially, Knox gives admin-level access to your government employer, and allows it to protect and control the sensitive data that may reside within a given smartphone. On this side of the divide, IT is able to place complex encryption, authentication requirements, time-out features, and remote access optionality, all while leaving your personal information hidden from the same watchdogs.

This feature – known as an application container – was popularized by BlackBerry, and is one of the central reasons those devices have stood alone for so long. Now that Samsung and Android have broken through, many speculate that Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iOS is likely to follow in short order. The application container should be well received by users, as well, because it means that the personal information – like photos, social media data, and personal contact data, will reside outside of the secure work space, and remain invisible to administrators. Each environment will have differentiated backgrounds to ensure ease of use, and no data will be enabled to cross the divide.

The ramifications
There are two primary ramifications of Samsung breaking through this divide -- beyond the fact that a Canadian and South Korean manufacturer are each approved, while U.S. smartphone makers have yet to catch up -- including the message to Apple, and the impact on BlackBerry. As far as Apple goes, this is another reminder to Cupertino to keep firing, because the competition is not taking a break. Seeing a weakened Apple, Samsung is coming hard.

The second, and likely more lasting impact, is the damage this news does to BlackBerry. As long as BlackBerry stood alone as the security leader in the industry, the company could claim one little fiefdom for itself. This may have relegated it to niche status, but it gave the company time to rebuild, rebrand, and survive. With this final arena penetrated by Samsung, BlackBerry is running out of ways to duck and cover.

The Google angle
While Google didn't design the Galaxy S4, its acceptance by the DoD should quiet some of the critics as to whether Android was sufficiently robust and hard-working for a government job – the dripping irony is lost on nobody. This is just one of the ways that Google is pushing back against both Apple and Samsung, as the search king fights to stay at the top of the heap. Ultimately, this is great news for Google, good news for Apple, and one more potential coffin nail for BlackBerry.

As one of the most dominant Internet companies ever, Google has made a habit of driving strong returns for its shareholders. However, like many other web companies, it's also struggling to adapt to an increasingly mobile world. Despite gaining an enviable lead with its Android operating system, the market isn't sold. That's why it's more important than ever to understand each piece of Google's sprawling empire. In The Motley Fool's new premium research report on Google, we break down the risks and potential rewards for Google investors. Simply click here now to unlock your copy of this invaluable resource.

Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 7:12 AM, i7up2001 wrote:

    First there is no official announcement by either the DoD or Samsung regarding Knox . If this approval was that big a deal, as you make it sound , Samsung would have been all over the news pushing it . The fact that they don't even have a press release on their website tell me this was a made up story to under mind Blackberry achievement in not only getting their new phone approved but also their tablet and BES10 platform.The truth will come out , The DoD will probably approve Samsung and Apple device, but not for any employee with any sensitive info.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 7:55 AM, lrd555 wrote:

    Apple will outsell Samung 5 to 1 in the US Govt. Keep dreaming.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 9:33 AM, TIMNPAWC wrote:

    I think the whole article is basically incorrect.

    BlackBerry BB6 and BB7 phones are what run the DoD. The writer talks to BB10 services made popular which the DoD has just finished testing but has never used.

    The whole section on the container is incorrect. The DoD is not certifying Samsung Knox because it's employees can split the phone and keep personal data personal. That is a side benefit. Neither Samsung or any Android would be certified unless Samsung had layered on several 3rd party applications to meet certification requirements.

    Neither Apple or Samsung care about the 500K devices in question. They may care about the extended millions of devices to be managed by the new MDM platform the DoD is deciding on as we speak but the writer failed to mention that.

    What Apple and Samsung are interested in is getting certified so they can go after BlackBerry Enterprise customers with "DoD Certified" but again, those same customers will be running BlackBerry MDM solution to manage the BlackBerry, Android and IOS devices.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 9:35 AM, gettmoney wrote:

    watch the bears come out the woods....but no worries us bulls will still be standing ....long bbry..

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 9:43 AM, PhillipDeCooch wrote:

    Samsung made the announcement on May the 3rd, a day after BB made their announcement about receiving approval to be used on DOD networks. That approval will lead to other corporate customers wanting to use the devices on their networks as a security measure.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 10:30 AM, TimKnows wrote:

    Well, some half baked research here!!!! KNOX has been delayed, it was pulled until much later, from the only phone to receive it, the S4. And so the S4 is being sold without it now. The DoD approved KNOX for "unsecure email only", the janitors are allowed to use the S4 .... if they even want one. There are only 8,000 Android products currently at the DoD versus 8,000,000 that need MDM software to protect them. Samsung isn't even a bit player in all of this and we know that Apple can't get their act together because they don't offer any security solutions at all. This leaves BlackBerry as the only choice for the DoD later this month and into the summer. You really blew this one!

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 10:39 AM, HelpIsHere wrote:

    Did you know that KNOX was pulled from the only Samsung phone to be approved for the DoD? Did you know that the S4 is the only phone that might be able to be used for the DoD as long as it receives "non-secure email" only? Did you know that Android only has 8,000 products in a pool of hardware that an MDM solution needs to be signed for? And that the MDM signing is for 8,000,000 units versus the little bit that Android is dealing with? Did you know that Apple has no security software solution at all? This means that Blackberry, who has all their hardware approved, and the best phones on the planet right now, also has the MDM solution for the DoD. You missed a few things here.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 10:56 AM, TIMNPAWC wrote:


    Companies will evaluate what they have, if what they have doesn't meet current and future (short term) requirements, they will look to the market to find a solution that meets the company's appetite for risk (name brand vs cost), CAPEX/OPEX, and standards as well as several other evaluation criteria based on market segment, region, etc.

    Based on Blackberry having successfully supported the enterprise for so long, they have the status of being the go to for secure communications. In the past, that also required that you use Blackberry only devices. Now, you have the option of managing other devices as well.

    Neither Samsung or Apple have a platform that can manage their own plus other and neither platform has a native platform that meets DoD requirements without 3rd party help.

    So that leads us to 3rd party competitors.

    Good Technology



    You say Good Technology is leader but they have not been for a couple years per Gartner Magic Quadrant 2012. They have been moving out of the leader / visionary quadrant for a couple years.

    MobileIron and Airwatch are in the lead as of last May.

    AirWatch (Gartner 2012)

    AirWatch is primarily a cloud offering but can to onsite.

    AirWatch does not yet support the ability to customize views and dashboards.

    It needs to increase its support of alternative channels in the enterprise market, especially with communications service providers.

    Its international client support and responsiveness have been reported as occasionally limited. AirWatch needs to raise its level of local support outside the U.S., directly or through partners, as it grows its global sales volume.

    Good Technology (Gartner 2012)

    The cost of the Good solution is relatively high per user seat, compared with other vendors, because Good includes its MDM solution as part of its Good for Enterprise. That solution secures mobile collaboration (email, calendar and contacts), providing secure access to corporate intranet applications and data, and enables secure file management.

    Good does not offer management or integration for BlackBerry devices and BES.

    There are no cloud offerings, nor does Good yet integrate with major cloud-based email service providers.

    Good Technology's MDM capabilities cannot be used independently of its messaging application. No lightweight MDM offering is available for organizations that would like to privilege the user experience with native apps on the device (such as the native email client), and care less about locking down the corporate footprint on the device.

    Some Good users complain about their usage experiences with native applications on the mobile device — for example, the lack of real-time email push and notifications in the Good Messaging client for iOS; or the Safari browser not allowed within the container to access the corporate intranet.

    MobileIron (Gartner 2012)

    MobileIron does not support containerization for corporate data and applications. It is not possible to isolate the corporate footprint from personal applications and data. Although it offers a broad range of capabilities to enforce controls on mobile devices connected to corporate systems, most policies must be applied to the entire device (as opposed to the corporate portion only). With BYOD, this may limit an owner's freedom to download and execute applications, such as Dropbox, for personal use.

    Its application management capabilities are limited. MobileIron products do not provide mechanisms to enforce security and manageability on enterprise-developed or third-party applications through integration with its MDM platform (for example, wrapping).

    It does not have its own encryption capabilities, and must work with what's on-device or through partners, which could cause higher costs. Buyers need to understand the limits of embedded protections on each platform, because these will be the limits to what MobileIron can manage.

    MobileIron needs to continue to increase its support for larger installations. Some customers have been concerned by some limitation in platform scalability for large or mass-scale deployments of greater than 20,000 devices.

    MobileIron had relied on inconsistent local support through partners, but has recently moved to provide direct Tier 1 support in the U.S. and EMEA.

    Samsung Knox?

    requires Citrix, Centrify, Absolute, Fixmo, etc., etc, etc,

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:08 AM, Oril wrote:

    When I saw the title I thought there must have been some surprise new announcement by Samsung or DOD but then on further reading saw that it was nothing more than a regurgitation of the press releases from May 3 which has been twisted to somehow make it look bad for Blackberry.

    I guess Saturday is a slow day for the idiot motley fool writers who are concerned about the resurgence of the Blackberry share price.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 11:20 AM, Oril wrote:

    The real story is that the cleaners and groundskeepers are now allowed to use their apple and Samsung devices but only during their break times when they are outside the buildings.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 3:40 PM, k1moops wrote:

    In a short time, Samsung will make up the majority of DoD mobile devices along with Apple. DoD needs mobile app machines to perform missions, not machines that can only do mobile email like the Blackberrys. There is nothing that can compare with Apple and Samsung in apps. There are 1,600,000 mobile apps that run on the combined Apple & Samsung platform, and it is extremely easy and safe to develop new apps on Apple & Samsung, and to deploy them. Apple Siri is the intelligent assistant DoD needs to conduct increasingly intelligent complex missions.

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 4:56 PM, jelp2 wrote:

    Seriously, people are still talking about Siri???

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2013, at 5:34 PM, okayisthatso wrote:

    Logically it would seem that Siri and the DoD would not be a great match :)

    If I had secret or secure information speaking it aloud would provide the weakest form of security, encryption in that world ;) unless everyone around me did not understand speech :)

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 4:20 PM, Gaeseki wrote:

    FYI, The GERMAN Gov't have been using Samsung Galaxy Smartphones and Tabs for years even before US approval ! LOL

    You ignoramus should ask to Germany.

    Apple products are half-assed products compare to Samsung superiority of Galaxy products and Apple couldn't have sold 'one single iPhone' without the advance SAMSUNG'S DNAs.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 4:28 PM, Gaeseki wrote:

    "NEWS: Pentagon Approves Samsung Devices for Military Use-- 5/02--2013.

    Samsung Galaxy S4, other Knox devices approved for U.S. Dept. of Defense


    "The DoD security requirement guidelines for mobile operation systems are one of the

    highest security standards in the world and this marks the First Time for Android-Powered GalaxyS4 device to meet such high security requirements."

    "While the military didn’t specifically mention Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s products in the statement, it said several mobile devices and operating systems are going through the military’s security review and approval process."

    Funny how even Pentagon has CHOSEN superiority of Galaxy smartphone OVER outdated iPhone junk that got sued for prIvacy issues.

    FYI, The GERMAN Gov't have been using Samsung Galaxy Smartphones and Tabs for years!

    The world's most powerful yet beautiful Galaxy Smartphones/Tabs will be a "breath of fresh air" for ALL US dept of defense's employees and Military personals because they don't have to stuck with outdated, old boring blackberry that are not even in the same league as amazingly innovative Galaxy devices in real world.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2013, at 9:19 PM, etgh wrote:

    "Siri, what are the current nuclear launch codes ?" Siri answer : "For which service?" Response "Air Force". Siri answer "QWER345GHY for all land based missle silos. Would you like the Naval launch codes as well ?"

    lol.....sorry, couldn't resist....... :)

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