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Google Courts Businesses With Android for Work Initiative

The smartphone giant is folding its Knox work into the broader push to make Android more corporate-friendly.

Google is ramping up its efforts to make Android more business and enterprise-friendly.

At its annual I/O developer conference on Wednesday, Google announced an “Android for Work” initiative, a means of separating, at the operating system level, the business and personal data we often carry on our devices.

“No one wants to carry two phones around,” said Sundar Pichai, head of Android, Chrome and Apps at Google.

In the past, Google has largely left the task of customizing Android for work to others — both device makers and third-party software companies such as Good Technology and AirWatch.

Samsung, in particular, had been working on a variety of things under the marketing name “Knox” to make its devices more secure for businesses. Google announced on Wednesday that Samsung is making all of its Knox work available to the broader Android ecosystem. (Knox has been the only add-on software for Android to get some key certifications from the Department of Defense and other government agencies in the U.S. and abroad.)

Although Android dominates global smartphone sales, Apple’s iOS has owned the enterprise thanks to its more locked-down approach and better security reputation.

Apple and Google are racing to snatch pieces of the business sector once dominated by BlackBerry, whose continued woes have led many longtime customers to consider other options.

The newly dubbed “Android for Work” effort is being supported by all the big hardware makers, including smartphone makers Samsung, Sony, Lenovo, Huawei and HTC as well as PC names such as Dell and HP.

The effort will start with the L release of Android, though Google intends to make some business features available as an app for older versions of the operating system.

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