BlackBerry, the company that pioneered the enterprise mobility movement with its range of secure smartphones more than a decade ago, is taking a renewed crack at the corporate market with a secure tablet computer.
The company’s new SecuTablet combines technology from IBM, Samsung Electronics and Secusmart GmbH, a German manufacturer of data and voice encryption technology that BlackBerry acquired last July. Like other BlackBerry products, the new secure tablet primarily targets government and corporate customers and integrates functions that are designed to make it suitable for use in environments that demand a high level of data security and confidentiality. The product is being offered as part of BlackBerry’s existing SecuSuite for BlackBerry 10 portfolio.
The SecuTablet is basically a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 equipped with the Secusmart Security Card for encrypting voice and data both in transit and at rest on the device. The security card is designed to encrypt voice communications, emails and text messages. A miniature microprocessing unit that is integrated into the Secusmart microSD card contains a crypto-controller with a public key infrastructure coprocessor for authentication, according to BlackBerry’s description of the technology. The SD card uses another high-speed coprocessor to encrypt voice and data using 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard encryption.
BlackBerry’s new secure tablet comes bundled with mobile app-wrapping software from IBM that basically offers a way to isolate corporate applications from personal applications such as Facebook and YouTube that users may also have running on the same device. Mobile application wrappers provide an additional layer of security for applications that aren’t designed specifically for enterprise use.
The BlackBerry tablet, which is priced at $2,330, will be available worldwide in the third quarter, according to Bloomberg Business. The company hopes to sell upward of 10,000 units in Germany. IBM will be responsible for selling the SecuTablet in other parts of the world.
The new product is currently being tested by the German Federal Office for Information Security for use in highly restricted government environments.
Chance for a Comeback
For BlackBerry, the new secure tablet represents a fresh attempt at making a comeback in the mobile device market. The company, which held a dominant position in enterprise mobility for years, has been steadily losing market share to rivals such as Apple and Android-powered smartphones from companies such as Samsung in recent years.
Even though smartphone shipments have spiked sharply in recent years, BlackBerry’s own shipments have continued to fall. From a peak of 20 percent market share in 2009, BlackBerry now accounts for less than 1 percent of market share. In fact, Gartner pegged BlackBerry’s share of the mobility market at 0.8 percent for the third quarter of 2014, a full percentage point lower than the already meager 1.8 percent share it held in the same quarter in 2013. For the quarter ending November 2014, BlackBerry reported revenues of $793 million, down substantially from the $1.1 billion it reported a year ago. Such declines have come even as the overall smartphone market grew by 20 percent in the same period.
The declining market share suggests the company, which was once a mainstay in the enterprise mobility space, has been largely left out of bring-your-own-device and corporate-opened, personally enabled trends that have swept the enterprise space in recent years.
It is too early to say whether the new tablet will reverse BlackBerry’s declines in the mobile space. In an interview with the BBC, analyst Nick McQuire from CCS Insight noted that the SecuTablet’s set of features is targeted squarely at BlackBerry’s core market of high-grade security-conscious customers. The product’s relatively high price tag could limit user interest in the device to organizations that do not mind paying a premium for the additional security, he said.
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