The Most Impactful CES 2014 Announcement Wasn’t What You’d Expect, And Was From Intel

Over the past 23 years, I have been to more trade shows than I can even remember, including my recent trip to the the International Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. While neither Apple, Google, or Microsoft pay the big bucks to present on-stage or have booths, CES is very much relevant in that it’s the largest gathering of the CE industry on the globe. One question I always get from research clients afterwards is, “what was the coolest thing at CES”? I might give them a flashy example first, but I’m quick to shift to impactful announcements. This year, Intel made an announcement that I believe will have the most impact over the next 5 years, and that is that they are securing Google Android for the enterprise and improving its manageability. 

First, I want to define “impact”, or my version of it. Impact is all about an event with the high likelihood of initiating meaningful change across markets, companies, technologies, or end users. Sure, wearables and the connected home were smoking hot at CES 2014, but the most impactful announcements in those sectors were made there at CES 2013 or 2012.

So what’s the big deal about Intel securing Google’s Android given Android is the clear unit market leader in mobile devices? The big deal is by securing Android, it means the OS could actually be viable in the future for heavy-duty productivity in businesses and enterprises. Sure, Android is on many BYO (bring your own) phones and tablets carried into the enterprise and managed by MDMs (mobile device manager), but few CIOs feel comfortable actually natively placing corporate data on the device. They may be OK with email without saving attachments, but aren’t comfortable actually placing confidential files on the device or giving access to enterprise applications and services.

This lack of comfort in security and manageability is one key reason Google’s Android hasn’t moved into businesses or the enterprise as quickly as Apple iOS, or for that matter, Microsoft Windows.

Intel will deliver many different and tangible things and this isn’t a paper announcement. First, they will be releasing and supporting their own version of a secure Android, so they’re essentially playing the “Red Hat” of enterprise Android. Inside Intel’s secure Android, Intel is providing hardware and software security and manageability called “Intel Device Protection Technology”. When combined with a third-party or Intel Security (formerly McAfee) software package, it can guard against malware in apps, data, and websites. Intel is also “containerizing” corporate and personal data which delivers a lot of benefits for the consumer and IT. By securely segmenting the data classes, IT feels better that their data is being protected and they can better manage how and when it’s done. Consumers should feel better in that their personal data is hidden from IT. I know, shocking, something good for the end users and IT.

I believe this is the tipping point for Android in the enterprise, and if Intel wants to, Chrome. Intel essentially “patched” and insured what CIOs consider a leaky house. No, it doesn’t “fix” the leaky Android kernel which Google is working on now, but is an important step along that path. Don’t confuse Intel’s foray with Samsung Knox, either. I applaud Samsung’s Knox effort with TTM and the amount of ISV’s at last year’s MWC was impressive, but CIOs don’t look to Samsung as an enterprise player. CIOs are running 95% of their datacenter apps on Intel-based servers, 95% of their client devices are on Intel silicon, and more than half of their storage is on Intel. Intel today “owns” enterprise, device and infrastructure security, and Samsung isn’t even part of the dialogue.

So why is this impactful? It’s simple. At least 95% of the installed base of hard core horizontal productivity devices- notebooks, desktops, workstations and most of retail and financial POS, self-service kiosks and ATMs are running on top of Microsoft Windows. Android has lacked the security, productivity apps, and hooks into Exchange Server and its services. I believe that Intel will sufficiently plug the Android security hole in the minds of the CIOs. Google is perfectly capable of creating world-class productivity software, unless, of course, Microsoft beats them to it with “real” and more robust versions of Office. As for hooks into Exchange and Microsoft server-based software, apps, and services, I see Microsoft opening that up more in the future for fear of losing the server itself.

Google should be buying drinks for Intel at the next Google I/O as Intel’s Android Device Protection Technology finally makes Android credible in the enterprise, something Google failed to do on their own or with Samsung.