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Longtime McAfee exec explains why Samsung’s Knox looks doomed to flop

Published Dec 24th, 2013 12:30PM EST
Samsung Knox Mobile Security Analysis

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It’s been a rough month for Samsung’s Knox initiative, which has been hit with complaints from customers about delays and major reported security holes. One longtime veteran in the mobile security space thinks that these sorts of issues are part and parcel when it comes to launching your own mobile security platform for the first time, however. The bigger issue Samsung faces, he says, is that the company’s business model for Knox is inherently too limited to make it attractive enough for widespread corporate adoption.

David Goldschlag, the former head of mobility at McAfee and current CEO of BYOD security vendor MobileSpaces, explains that Samsung’s Knox platform might not be as big a selling point for companies as Samsung is hoping simply because Samsung has limited the service to its own devices. While that might be a nice add-on for companies who buy up Samsung phones, it’s not going to be a deciding factor for them when it comes time to figure out which smartphones they want to buy.

“Samsung wants to use Knox as a competitive advantage to sell more devices,” he tells BGR. “However, in a BYOD world, although the absolute number of Samsung Knox devices in the field will increase over time, the percentage of Samsung Knox devices, as an overall percentage of Android devices will decrease, especially as more vendors produce higher quality and lower cost devices. Consumers buy based on features and price, not security capability. So Knox is unlikely to be an important security tool in enterprise BYOD programs, given the heterogeneity of the Android device ecosystem.”

Of course, it’s easy to see why Goldschlag thinks companies need to invest in a more comprehensive BYOD solution since his own company happens to sell more comprehensive BYOD solutions. However, his argument that Samsung will have a tough time using Knox as a key driver for enterprise adoption of its smartphones makes sense, especially because the entire reason companies are investing more in cross-platform BYOD security services is because they can’t control which devices their employees bring to work with them.

“As we’ve seen with Blackberry/RIM, it’s very hard to be both an enterprise mobility management vendor and a handset vendor, since the mobile management part of the business wants to be device agnostic while the handset part of the business wants to sell devices, and there is lots more money to be made today in devices, so the device side of the business usually wins,” Goldschlag says.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.