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KNOX Android: Business at the front, party in the back

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MWC 2013 Samsung is touting a new package called KNOX that attempts to split an Android device in two separate halves, one for business and the other for personal use.

Fresh from tussling with Apple for global smartphone supremacy, the South Koreans are now ready to tear into BlackBerry and invade its home turf of enterprise users.

Announced at MWC and available on forthcoming handsets, KNOX creates a container on an Android handset with its own calendar, email, web browser and applications, entirely separated and protected from the user's own personal data. The corporate container is under control of the enterprise's sysadmins, allowing employees to take their handsets to work and use them in confidence as long as they all come from Samsung.

KNOX needs additional hardware to provide proper separation and encryption, so it's not going to work on just any Android phone but it will work on forthcoming Galaxy devices. So that's the brand companies will be able to recommend to employees who want to subsidise the corporate IT budget by providing their own hardware.

The system is part of SAFE - Samsung For Enterprise - which is itself a component of the company's ongoing campaign to ensure there's no part of the mobile world without a Samsung logo on it.

While the containers used by KNOX are based on the "Security Enhanced" spin of Android, developed by the US National Security Agency, much of the usability comes from Centrify, which has provided single-sign-on and device management tech for a while. Centrify integrates with Microsoft's Active Directory, and Samsung's KNOX platform incorporates the single-sign-on API from Centrify.

Apps developers just need to get approval from Samsung and the enterprise that decides to deploy their software in order to run in KNOX containers; Centrify's API smooths the user experience.

Samsung has made no secret of its intention to dominate mobile, and if KNOX works as advertised it replicates the killer feature of BlackBerry's new Balance platform, which also juggles work and personal data on the same handset. Balance is slightly more elegant - it knows that business and life appointments shouldn't clash for example - but that's a very small thing to stand against Samsung's might.

KNOX also pushes the Galaxy brand again, one which now rivals Android as an iPhone alternative, and looks likely to become the BlackBerry alternative, too. ®

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