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 Virtual Private Network 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. Business customers either 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 Wager, vice president and general manager of Samsung enterprise sales, told Computerworld. "We're systematically going after the enterprise customer, on the most desireable device we can offer."
Wager 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, Wager said.
Wager said Samsung is also in the process of gaining FIPS compliance for the Galaxy S III, which important to healthcare, government and financial firms. Samsung has won FIPS compliance on the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi tablet from Verizon Wireless. SAFE will be certified on other tablets in the future, Wager said.
The MDM vendors Samsung has worked most closely with for the Galaxy S III launch include Afaria, MobileIron, AirWatch and SOTI, Wager 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 medium-size businesses (SMBs), Wager said.
MDM can be used by corporations to control how many or what kind of apps their workers use, as well as for remote wipe of 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, Wager said a worker can buy a Galaxy S III and "go into the office and show the IT guy that it complies," Wager 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."
Samsung also announced Safe2SSwitch, a trade-up program that gives users the ability to quickly see how much their smartphones are worth, so they can quickly trade-in for a SAFE device. With it, a user will soon be able to scan a QR code with an existing smartphone to be taken to a site than can detect the smartphone model and present its value and provide directions for a trade-in to a SAFE smartphone. The QR codes will be published in computer trade magazines, Wager said.
While the IT compliance inherent in SAFE will help companies feel more secure about their workers using the Galaxy S III, Wager said it is the smartphone device that is driving sales. "IT compliance of a smartphone doesn't drive buying behavior; the device drives the behavior," he said.
The Galaxy S III has features that will attract business users, including a larger screen for reading emails and access to faster LTE networks. "The larger screen is a huge driver for the mobile pro," he said.
An added advantage of using an Android device inside an enterprise is that custom apps can be less expensive to develop, given Android is built on open source software, Wager added.
Kathryn Weldon, an analyst at Current Analysis, said that SAFE will help IT shops have more confidence in workers using Android. "But I'm not sure IT has much of a choice, as their employees will be bringing them in on an BYOD basis," she said.
One benefit of Samsung's approach is that Samsung is not creating its own MDM but is partnering with an established crop of them.
She said that SAFE in combination with MDM tools approaches the security and manageability of BlackBerry Enterprise Server, a mainstay of corporate users even with the decline of maker Research in Motion.
The benefit of SAFE with an MDM system is that a corporation won't need to pay for RIM licenses or work behind RIM's Network Operations Center or pay for ongoing maintenance, she said.
"Since SAFE will integrate with all the main MDM platforms, it presupposes an MDM platform already in place," she said. "Between the 300-plus IT policies of SAFE and the existing management control and base level security of an MDM platform, I do believe that the stigma in the enterprise for Android shouldstart going away."
BES has support for more than 500 IT policies, more than the SAFE approach of 338, Wager admitted. "Today we don't do as much" as BES, but Wager urged customers to consider where Android is headed compared to BlackBerry.
Andrew Braunberg, also an analyst at Current Analysis, agreed that programs such as SAFE will drive broader enterprise adoption of Android. "Without programs such as SAFE and HTCPro and others, Android really has no chance of being broadly supported by enterprise IT," he said. Samsung benefited in winning a diverse partnership with various MDM players "no doubt driven by its leading position in the Android smartphone market."
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.