Apple's walled-garden approach to iPhones and iPads -- along with significant enterprise enhancements to its operating system, especially in the latest version iOS 7 — has been a security nirvana for CIOs. In contrast, Android's open-source environment has been viewed as a breeding ground for malware and risky apps.
However, signs now point to a changing of the guard. Samsung, for instance, has become the dominant Android player — more than 60 percent of the market, according to Localytics — and has gone on an enterprise offensive with security offerings such as Knox, a containerization technology for Samsung's high-end devices.
"Many modern Android handsets expose access to a trusted execution engine based on the ARM processor's TrustZone capabilities and this allows app developers to have access to security hardware that is very powerful. Apple may have similar hardware but does not give developers access to it." —Nicko van Someren,Good Technology.
"It is neck-and-neck between Samsung Knox and Apple iOS 7," says CEO Pankaj Gupta at Amtel, a provider of cloud-based mobile device management services. He adds that Samsung has taken "security up a notch, supporting many types of secure access via VPN, dual persona and containerization."
The idea that Android could get on par and perhaps even overtake Apple in the enterprise security space would have been outrageous only a year ago. In the fast-moving world of mobility, though, anything can happen.
Samsung Emerges as Leader of the Android Pack
The emergence of Samsung as Android leader helps defray some of the concerns over multiple Android flavors, and Android's natural openness gives developers access to the OS and a deeper security level than Apple currently allows.
When Samsung unveiled Knox earlier this year, it became a serious mobile security player in the eyes of many CIOs and put Samsung ahead of Apple in the courtship of enterprises. After all, containerization appears to be the way mobile security is heading; Apple later built containerization into iOS 7.
While Knox will work only on a few high-end Samsung devices such as the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, the technology eventually should make its way into future Samsung devices, Gupta says. "The ecosystem can benefit more by having the innovations trickle down into the standard Android platform."
By having access to the Android OS, developers can build security extensions, such as Knox, at the application layer. At its core, Knox is a secure container for work apps to reside on a device separate from personal apps. In contrast, another extension is AppConnect from mobile device management (MDM) vendor MobileIron, a technology for wrapping individual apps and data in a kind of security blanket.
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