Following a turbulent year which saw sizable contractions and the launch of two new devices, the BlackBerry Passport and the Classic, the company once again made headlines this week with the announcement of its first foray in years into the tablet market after the failure of the ill-fated PlayBook with the unveiling of the SecuTABLET, a high-security tablet based on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Presented in collaboration with IBM at CeBIT 2015, the device is squarely focused on security, with the public sector and security-minded enterprises as its target market. Aiming for the highest levels of security, the device, which has been designed with European governments in mind, is currently undergoing certification for a German VS-NfD (classified – for official use only) rating, making it one of the most secure tablets to enter the market in an era where concerns around data leakage and breaches continue to grow. The tablet marks a notable departure for BlackBerry, as this represents the first device from the company that does not feature proprietary hardware or OS.
A powerful enterprise partnership
As noted in BlackBerry’s press release, a study from IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) found that 63% of public authorities want mobile access to mission critical apps, but the level of security required through legally mandated restrictions towards data privacy present a considerable obstacle. As a result, there is a dearth of solutions that fit a “government-grade” level of security demanded by the public sector. To address the gap, BlackBerry has worked to form a partnership with some of the best-in-class solutions providers to create a turn-key, secure tablet solution that meets stringent security requirements. The device features recent acquisition SecuSmart’s security architecture and secure SD card and driver, in addition to the trusted execution environment protections from Samsung’s KNOX platform, and is complemented by Apperian’s secure app store and app-wrapping capabilities. The latter’s app management, which has proven itself to be best-in-class and speaks to the firm’s strength in the MAM category. Meanwhile, IBM brings considerable industry-specific expertise to the table, as well as the ability to bring mobile solutions to a wide array of both regional and vertical environments.
Embracing the niche
Despite a high price point of €2,250 (US$2,380), the move represents a smart and positive development for BlackBerry, which has struggled to maintain enterprise relevance in the face of steep declines in market share against Android and iOS devices. By teaming with Samsung, not only can BlackBerry offload the hardware requirements in bringing the SecuTABLET to market, it also can take advantage of a considerably larger user and application base than would be available to its own proprietary OS, whose market share has dwindled to single digits in recent years. If anything, this strategy holds significantly more potential as it allows BlackBerry to pivot away from its hardware roots While it is still too early to tell, preliminary guidance reveal tepid adoption rates of its smartphones that mean any attempts to regain general market share will be an uphill struggle at best. By focusing on the niche that is government and high-security enterprise, BlackBerry can leverage its differentiation through high-level security to its advantage, especially with its acquisition of Secusmart. However, while there have been competing solutions from the likes of Motorola’s AME 2000 and Apple, through its collaborations with KoolSpan and its own Root of Trust to provide similar hardware-based solutions, BlackBerry’s traditional strength in the public sector and the sophistication of the SecuTABLET solution will offer a meaningful point of differentiation to help it withstand the competition.
With Eric Klein, Managing Director