Mobile Security, BYOD and the Dual OS Smartphone

by Jeff Wiener on April 6, 2015

There’s no question that the Bring-Your-Own-Device movement has radically changed the mobile landscape across the enterprise world, as companies have had to find ways of incorporating consumer oriented smartphones—devices inherently less secure than business phones—into corporate networks, an ongoing process that has left companies at increased risk of security breaches and lost corporate data.

While tech titans like Google, Apple, and Samsung and the IT industry alike have wrestled with ways of resolving this mobile marriage made in hell, in early 2014 several mobile companies proposed—and subsequently scrapped—a BYOD solution that I think may still have some viability, the idea of dual OS smartphones.

Simply put, imagine a device that would allow users to operate a Blackberry or Windows operating system at work, one that delivered secure, functional, productivity oriented enterprise features, that could easily be switched to Apple’s iOS at home for its entertainment and creativity oriented options. While there are undoubtedly hurdles to overcome to achieve this solution, it stands not only as a way of combating the extant security issues of the BYOD movement, but as a way of establishing smaller mobile competitors like Blackberry or Microsoft into serious players as well, and it makes me wonder why no one has brought it to market yet.

Ok, I’ll admit that I know full well why Apple hasn’t pursued any dual OS mobile projects, as the company’s desire to control all aspects of the mobile process clearly make it a very undesirable partner for this sort of venture, but I have to wonder why Samsung and Blackberry, for instance, don’t alter their current partnership structure to embrace the notion of a dual OS smartphone.

On the one hand Samsung would immediately establish itself as a credible enterprise player, as companies would be able to adopt a Samsung device knowing that its employees will have the secure enterprise features IT departments need to effectively manage corporate networks, while employees will have a phone they love to use both at work and at play.

Now before you think I’m the first to think of this, it was just over a year ago now that the idea of a dual OS smartphone was first proposed, a relatively quiet development that garnered little attention and was scrapped before it really got off the ground. But at the time lesser lights in the mobile world Huawei and ASUS were toying with mobile projects that sported both Android and Windows operating systems, devices that would allow users access to the full suite of Microsoft’s Office productivity tools on a phone that could be easily switched to Android to do, well, everything else.

As mentioned, such projects were scuttled well before they ever reached market.

Now granted the notion of a dual OS mobile device has its fair share of challenges, most notably licensing and compatibility, but as companies still vie for that elusive third spot behind Android and iOS in the mobile OS market, one would think partnership, particularly with Android vendors, might be the only way to get less the less popular (yet arguably more enterprise friendly) operating systems into people’s hands.

Could 2015 be the year of the dual OS smartphone? Given the unprecedented number of mobile partnerships forming and the fact that the enterprise sector is still looking for an effective “do everything” BYOD phone, I would say the time is ripe for such a hybrid device…whether anyone else thinks that is another question entirely.

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