The U.S. Defense Department approved use on its networks of Samsung Electronics Co. devices running a secure version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
The approval allows Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung, the largest seller of smartphones for commercial use, to compete with Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, the dominant mobile-device provider to the military.
The Pentagon also gave security approval to BlackBerry 10 smartphones and PlayBook tablets, according to a Defense Department statement.
“This is a significant step toward establishing a multi-vendor environment that supports a variety of state-of-the-art devices and operating systems,” Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman, said in the statement.
A similar security clearance is expected for Apple Inc.’s iOS 6 operating system early this month, Pickart said in an earlier e-mail.
The U.S. National Security Agency worked with Samsung to create “Secure-Enhanced Android,” a version of Google’s operating system with multiple layers of software and hardware protection, Tim Wagner, Samsung vice president and general manager of enterprise, has said.
The system, called Knox, lets employers keep corporate and military applications and data in a secure place on a smartphone or tablet, and remotely erase them if necessary. If a worker leaves the company or loses a device, employers don’t need to worry about data being lost, Wagner has said.
While the military has relied on BlackBerrys, which have consistently received federal certification for protecting sensitive data, it has been testing Android and Apple alternatives.
Adam Yates, a spokesman for Samsung, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment.
Scott Totzke, BlackBerry’s senior vice president of security, said in a statement that the new BlackBerry 10 “offers a rich, highly responsive mobile computing experience, along with BlackBerry’s proven and validated security model.”