Smartphone vendors target BYOD enterprises

LG is hoping to get a larger piece of the enterprise market with new security features

Smartphone vendors have rekindled their infatuation with enterprises as the consumer segment fizzles; this week's exhibit is the launch of LG Electronics' Gate, which separates users' professional and private lives through virtualization.

After concentrating on consumers during the last couple of years, smartphone vendors are being driven by tougher competition and lower margins in the mass market to focus more on enterprises, according to analysts.

"It is becoming increasingly tough, particularly for companies like LG, who is a big player but essentially a follower. It is not going to be able to call the shots with Samsung in such a dominant position globally," said Andrew Brown, executive director for enterprise research at Strategy Analytics.

Francisco Jeronimo, research director for European mobile devices at IDC, agreed.

"The consumer segment is getting saturated, so opportunities to grow will decline in the coming years," he said.

Vendors are going after both BYOD (bring-your-own-device) programs and enterprises that want to keep full control by giving employees devices instead of allowing them to use their own.

Today, the general approach is that everything is untrusted, so any additional layers of security that enterprises can use to protect their assets are going to be popular, according to Brown. Everyone has a shot at offering enterprise-class devices, he said.

LG Gate allows personal and business information to be kept completely separate by running two operating systems on a single smartphone. The platform also comes with features such as data encryption, Microsoft ActiveSync, and MDM (mobile device management).

The drawback to all of this is what it does to the already poor battery life on many smartphones.

"User experience is almost a separate discussion here. Obviously the more stuff you pile onto the endpoint, the more challenging it becomes. The idea should always be to keep it lean," Brown said.

To make Gate as flexible as possible, LG has collaborated with large VPN and MDM vendors, the company said, without identifying who those were.

But the launch of Gate is only one of many examples; Apple's iOS 7 includes a number of enterprise features and BlackBerry is hoping a renewed focus on enterprises will save the company. Microsoft is also working to make Windows Phone 8 more enterprise-friendly, according to Brown.

On Thursday, Samsung Electronics joined forces with Orange Business Services to sell tablets protected by Samsung's Knox platform to enterprises across Europe. Orange's contributions are functions like device management, deployment services and customer support, it said.

Vendors such as Huawei and ZTE are also expected make their smartphones more enterprise-ready, Jeronimo said.

That LG is planning to first make Gate available in the U.S. on the G2 smartphone doesn't come as a surprise to Brown or Jeronimo. Enterprises in the U.S. have been much faster to accept the BYOD concept compared to their European competitors, they both said.

"The BYOD trend is a lot stronger in the U.S. When we asked companies in the U.K. they were more keen on providing the handsets themselves because of the level of control that gives," Jeronimo said.

The enterprise mobile management sector is evolving rapidly at the moment. Vendors have been forced to move on from just offering basic MDM functionality, according to Brown.

"Whether its operator managed services, the enterprise software companies themselves or indeed the OEMs looking to offer solutions in tandem with partners on their devices, they are all looking to offer features for content management and persona management, which is about how to handle a private and a work profile on the device. That is becoming increasingly important," Brown said.

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