Google and Samsung have a pretty interesting and lively relationship. Although the two seem to be at each other's throats over topics such as OEM customizations, Tizen, and Android Wear, the two have come together last Google I/O to tell the world that they are collaborating on bringing Samsung KNOX to Android. Now Google is finally divulging what that partnership really means for the future of Android.
Of course, the main focus of this endeavor is to make Android an enticing option not just for personal smartphone use but in the workplace as well. To this end, Google and Samsung will be porting over some KNOX features to Android, particularly in the upcoming Android L release. The primary feature will be the ability to separate personal and work data and apps into their own walled gardens. This frees employers to either let their workers bring their own devices (BYOD) or just issue company smartphones, without fear of work data bleeding into personal space or normally insecure personal apps getting access to sensitive work files. This dual separation is based on the KNOX Workspace implementation and utilizes Android's new multi-user capabilities.
Separating personal life and work life is one thing, but managing all those is another. The upcoming Android release will let Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) apps and services to enable employers and their IT departments to manage and control the enterprise half of an Android setup even remotely. EMM's can create managed profiles for work, enforce restrictions and policies over all managed devices, keep their own collection of approved apps, and even remotely install or remove apps on an employee's smartphone. Again, these are all based on KNOX's security enhancements and will integrate seamlessly into Android, even showing up as marked apps in launchers and recent apps lists.
As for KNOX, Samsung will still be controlling its development and still plans on keeping its business alive. What Samsung will provided then is added value on top, or below to be more precise, whatever KNOX features will be integrated into Android L. Since Google doesn't have direct control over device hardware, it can only implement security frameworks on top of the Linux kernel and in Android itself. This is where Samsung believes it can offer something more, by providing security even on the hardware level. It will, however, provide a compatibility layer so that KNOX apps will still work on Android L, at least as far as the upper layers and features are concerned.