Last week, Apple's Phil Schiller used Twitter to highlight the security and malware threats that can impact Android devices, tweeting a link to the latest edition of the F-Secure Mobile Threat Report with the words "be safe out there."
The tweet was an uncharacteristic move for Apple's marketing chief who typically praises Apple products rather than denigrating Apple's competitors.
Schiller's actions may have been a surprise, but most of the things he said shouldn't be that surprising, particularly in the business and IT spheres. In fact, the issues he raised are ones that concern many IT professionals when it comes to Android.
- Citing Google's own data, he noted that most Android phones run versions originally released two years ago and a rather small number (16%) run the current release while have of all iOS devices are running the current iOS 6 release.
- He described the vetting and tweaking the manufacturers and carriers often need to perform before pushing updates to users, which often adds months to the update process, and that not all devices capable of an update will ever receive one.
- Referencing third-party studies, Schiller notes that Apple's iOS is often seen as more secure than Android.
- He noted that the Galaxy S4 may be running a year-old version of Android when it goes on sale next month. (This turns out to be false: it will run Android 4.2.2, the latest update to Android Jelly Bean, which was released in February.)
- Attacking the overall out-of-the-box Android experience, he claimed that Apple did better job of providing a consistently positive experience about Android across the board.
- Citing internal research at Apple, he claimed that there are four times as many Android users migrating to iOS compared to users leaving iOS for Android.
Ironically, Schiller's offensive, particularly when it comes to security, may end up helping Samsung more than Apple. That's because Samsung has taken up the challenge of making Android much more secure and attractive for IT and security professionals.
Samsung's SAFE program, which launched last year, offers IT departments a virtual smorgasbord of more than 300 policies to secure, configure, and manage SAFE-certified devices like the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II. By contrast, Apple only offers about four dozen policies, almost all of which are the same policies that the company first introduced into iOS nearly three years ago. It's easy to see SAFE, which is supported by a range of mobile management vendors, as a replacement for the traditional BlackBerry/BES security options.
That doesn't even take into account the KNOX platform that Samsung unveiled last month alongside of the Mobile World Congress in Spain. The Galaxy S4 will be the first KNOX-enabled device that Samsung ships and it will deliver an even greater level of security with features like secure boot, the NSA's Secure Android technology, integrity checking, and a separated secure container for all business apps and data. That's practically the holy grail of mobile management at this point and every Galaxy S4 will ship with it, giving individuals as well as enterprises the ability to secure and separate business and personal tools and information.
Much like SAFE, KNOX offers security options built into the Galaxy S4 that put it in a different class from the majority of Android phones and tablets on the market. It also out-classes Apple's iOS security features. While it is possible to secure business data on and iPhone or iPad through the use of encrypted containers, doing so requires mobile management tools. Even when a containerized approach is used on iOS devices, it doesn't always provide a similar division of personal and business content in the way that KNOX and BlackBerry Balance are designed to perform.
Samsung isn't just building these security features into its Android devices, it's also marketing them as reasons to choose Samsung devices for business over other Android options as well as over Apple's iOS devices. For every point that Schiller made about Android as a whole, Samsung can equally claim for its enterprise-focused devices. That means that by bashing Android as a whole Schiller has given Samsung at least as big a bullhorn as he has Apple. In fact, he may have given Samsung a bigger one.