May 3 (Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon cleared Samsung Electronics Co.’s devices for use on its networks, signaling the start of a battle for military market share among top smartphone makers.
The Defense Department yesterday approved use of the Suwon, South Korea-based company’s devices running a secure version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system.
The move gives Samsung, the largest seller of smartphones for commercial use, the chance to compete with Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, the Pentagon’s dominant provider of mobile devices. Apple Inc. devices may gain a similar security clearance this month, according to Lieutenant Colonel Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman.
“This is a significant step toward establishing a multi-vendor environment that supports a variety of state-of-the-art devices and operating systems,” Pickart said in a statement yesterday.
The Pentagon also gave security approval to BlackBerry 10 smartphones and PlayBook tablets, according to the statement.
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.
Samsung, Asia’s largest technology company, said the Galaxy S4 released last month will be the first smartphone using Knox.
“This approval enables other government agencies and regulated industries such as health care and financial services to adopt Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets,” Shin Jong Kyun, head of Samsung’s mobile business, said in an e-mail statement today.
“This is a significant milestone for Samsung as we work to grow our relationships within government and large corporate enterprises.”
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.”
While the military has relied on BlackBerrys, which have consistently received federal certification for protecting sensitive data, it had announced its intention to open its networks to Android and Apple alternatives.
The Pentagon has more than 600,000 mobile devices, including 470,000 BlackBerrys, 41,000 Apple products and 8,700 platforms running Google’s Android operating system, according to a department statement. Many of the Apple and Android products in use aren’t connected to Defense Department networks except for testing.
The military has said it wants employees to have the flexibility to use commercial products such as Apple iPads and iPhones on its systems, including its classified network for the first time. It plans to create a military mobile applications store and hire a contractor to build a system that may eventually handle as many as 8 million devices.
The Defense Information Systems Agency plans to select a company or group of firms by early summer to develop the architecture to manage mobile devices and distribute software applications, according to John Hickey, the agency’s mobility program manager.
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