BlackBerry, IBM, Samsung Come Together on High-Price, High-Security Tablet

BlackBerry subsidiary Secusmart on Monday introduced the SecuTablet, a high-security tablet based on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5, at the CeBIT 2015 trade show in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Developed in collaboration with IBM, the tablet targets national and international public sector markets and enterprises.

IBM provided the secure app wrapping technology and further assisted in implementing Secusmart’s high-security solutions for a number of government sector clients.

The SecuTablet is designed with special security features that can protect business as well as government data, while also allowing users to access social media and other nonsecure personal applications.

The tablet is an addition to the SecuSuite for BlackBerry 10 portfolio and can be integrated with existing SecuSuite infrastructures.

It is expected to arrive in the third quarter, and it reportedly will sell for US$2,360.

High-Security Customers

The SecuTablet, which is compatible with BlackBerry 10, essentially builds on Samsung’s proven Galaxy Tab hardware and design. It features a Secusmart microSD card, along with IBM software, to protect the content stored on it from prying eyes.

Secusmart’s chipcard, which encrypts voice and data, cannot be corrupted by malware that otherwise could target the operating system.

“Security is ingrained in every part of BlackBerry’s portfolio, which includes voice and data encryption solutions,” said Secusmart CEO Hans-Christoph Quelle.

“National and international government customers have entrusted their voice and data communications with the Secusmart Security Card for years,” he said. “This same technology is what secures the new SecuTablet.

“Working alongside IBM and Samsung, we have added the last link in the chain of the Federal Security Network,” he noted. “Subject to certification of the SecuTablet, German government agencies will have a new way to access BlackBerry’s most secure and complete communications network in the world.”

Replay Book

The SecuTablet is not BlackBerry’s first foray into the tablet market. The company introduced the Playbook tablet in 2011, and while the device was relatively popular in the Canadian market — it reportedly accounted for as much as 20 percent of the tablet market in Canada — it failed to hit sales targets and was discontinued last year.

The new tablet is more than a replay, however.

“It’s a change of direction for BlackBerry — one that they’ve talked about for the past three years,” said Steve Blum, principal analyst at Tellus Venture Associates.

“Instead of making devices and operating systems, they are focusing on their core competency — security — and leveraging the brand identity that goes along with it,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“There doesn’t seem to be much in the SecuTablet that comes from BlackBerry itself,” Blum added.

“The device is made by Samsung, the operating system appears to be Android — although that’s still to be confirmed — and the apps, or at least the secure shell that the apps run in, come from IBM,” he said. “Presumably, the secret sauce that BlackBerry adds to the mix is its secure telecoms system.”

Enterprise Security Needs

In a recent IBM poll, 63 percent of governmental respondents indicated there was a need for specific software to make mobile devices more secure. BlackBerry’s security platform could be just the thing.

“That system, and the proprietary technology it’s based on, is BlackBerry’s crown jewel,” said Blum.

“If they’ve finally figured out how to usefully integrate it into the devices and operating systems that have won the battle of the marketplace, then it means BlackBerry has a future, albeit one that’s greatly diminished from the days when it was the top dog of mobile data,” he added.

Secure or not, however, there are limitations inherent in the tablet form factor.

“The BlackBerry tablet is a solution that is looking for a problem,” said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

“Tablets continue to be predominantly content consumption devices,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“There are only small deployments of tablets in the enterprise space where tablets have replaced laptops. Generally speaking, those applications are not in the high-security niche, which by definition is small,” Entner said.

“In the end, when Americans have to choose between convenience, security and price, it’s a toss-up between convenience and price, with security as a solid No. 3,” he added.

Niche Device

The market could be limited for the SecuTablet, but there could be enough demand for BlackBerry to remain relevant.

“The SecuTablet itself is a niche device that will appeal to people that need access to very secure documents and other data,” said Blum.

“It’s a media consumption device — that’s what tablets do well — and will find a niche on that basis,” he suggested.

“Think of it as a substitute for paper copies of documents. A key feature is that a document cannot leave a device that it’s sent to, preventing unauthorized sharing,” Blum explained. “That kind of network security is an additional protection on top of the encryption and access control that any tablet could support.”

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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