By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated March 21, 2014.
President Barack Obama may soon lose his beloved BlackBerry. That’s because White House officials are testing smartphones from rival handset makers, including Samsung and LG, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Citing “a person familiar with the matter,” the Journal reported that the White House’s internal technology team and White House Communications Agency, which is a military unit responsible for Obama’s communications, is testing the devices. That said, any shift is still “months away,” the paper noted, and there’s no concrete evidence Obama would have to give up his device.
"We can confirm that the White House Communications Agency, consistent with the rest of the Department of Defense (DoD), is piloting and using a variety of mobile devices," a Defense Department spokesman told the Journal.
As Secure as BlackBerry?
If the federal government moves away from BlackBerry, it would be a major blow to the Canadian handset maker considering the state of the company and its current market position. According to market research firm IDC, BlackBerry only holds about 0.6 percent of the North American smartphone market.
"We value the long-term relationship we’ve had with the White House and have been securing their mobile communications for more than a decade," BlackBerry said in a statement sent to CBC News. "Other vendors such as Samsung and LG still have a long way to go to catch up to meet the government’s stringent requirements and certifications."
Or do they? Samsung’s Android-based Knox incorporates key technologies patented by the National Security Agency (NSA). And the Department of Defense has approved Knox-enabled devices, including smartphones and tablets, for use by the U.S. government and military officials within DoD networks. The DoD security requirement guidelines for mobile operating systems are one of the highest security standards in the world.
“Samsung Knox delivers fundamental security at the platform level, while leaving the user experience consistent,” said Injong Rhee, senior vice president and head of B2B R&D Group at Samsung Electronics “Samsung Galaxy devices powered by Samsung Knox are highly secure mobile devices.”
Government’s Wise Move
We caught up with Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner Inc., to get his thoughts on the possibility of the White House moving away from BlackBerry. He told us now that 97 percent of the planet has abandoned Blackberry and the NSA has approved Knox, Obama will probably lose his favorite smartphone.
“If the government feels there’s a possibility that BlackBerry is going to be sold off to someone they don’t want to see it sold to, like Lenovo, then they are going to tell the president he has to get a new phone,” Disabato said.
“Gartner is advising companies not to invest in BlackBerry until they figure out what they are going to do. The government is taking a prudent action. The company is in trouble. There’s no guarantee they are going to be making handsets.”