New Secusmart tablet delivers high security -- at high cost

BlackBerry's Secusmart, Samsung and IBM teamed up to deliver a highly-secure tablet for government entities, but it carries an eye-popping pricetag.

A new tablet from BlackBerry subsidiary Secusmart will offer a highly-secure alternative to iPads, at a premium price.

Secusmart teamed up with Samsung and IBM to the develop the SecuTABLET for highly-regulated and security-conscious public sector markets, due out this summer.

The tablet is built on Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and Secusmart, a German voice and data security company specializing in enhanced encryption and protection from electronic eavesdropping. Secusmart was purchased by BlackBerry in 2014.

IBM provides secure app wrapping technology for the SecuTABLET and assistance to implement Secusmart technologies within the infrastructures of government-sector clients. Secured corporate apps can run alongside unsecured consumer apps such as YouTube or Facebook.

It's unclear if the tablet will run on Android or the BlackBerry 10 operating system, however, a BlackBerry spokesperson said she believed it would be an Android tablet. Secusmart wasn't immediately available to comment for further clarification.

The SecuTABLET is undergoing a certification process to be used within German government agencies and is expected to be adopted there once completed, BlackBerry said. It's BlackBerry's first foray into the tablet market since the PlayBook, which sold poorly after its launch in 2011.

BlackBerry needed something new around tablets to help drive more enterprise adoption of its platforms and services, said Ralph Rodriguez, a former CTO and current CEO of Blue Hill Research, an IT research and analysis firm in Boston.

"Part of that driver will come from regulated industries, and BlackBerry didn't have a tablet story," Rodriguez said.

Secusmart technology is really what is protecting the operating system to the kernel level.
Ralph RodriguezCEO, Blue Hill Research

Companies most concerned about mobile security want products and services that secure data at rest and in transit, as well as when data is transferred to both secured and unsecured applications, Rodriguez said.

"What [this tablet] really is about is Secusmart and its secure boot loader," he said. "Secusmart technology is really what is protecting the operating system to the kernel level."

That level of security will not come cheap. The SecuTABLET will retail at around $2,380, a BlackBerry spokesperson confirmed. With more adoption and possible attempts to broaden the tablet's appeal to markets outside governments, that price could come down, Rodriguez said.

By comparison, the most expensive iPad is the Wi-Fi and cellular-enabled 128GB iPad Air 2 at $829.

BlackBerry, Samsung look to gain ground

BlackBerry and Samsung have a ways to go to catch up to both Apple and Microsoft in the enterprise tablet market.

In a February 2015 451 Research's ChangeWave survey of 1,536 IT respondents, 77% of companies planning to buy tablets for employees in the next quarter will buy iPads, with 22% planning to buy Microsoft Windows tablets and 13% going for Samsung. Lenovo, HP, Dell and Google were all surveyed at 6% or less.

Part of the issue may be lingering concerns about the security of the Android operating system, said Chris Hazelton, research director for enterprise mobility at 451 Research in New York.

Android has done a great deal of work to improve security such as SE Android on more recent devices for enhanced granular IT controls. This work culminated recently with the Android for Work platform that ties mobile workspace environments directly into enterprise mobility management platforms, including BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES).

"There's also user pull, since many probably want an iPad over an Android tablet," Hazelton said.

For BlackBerry to make a more significant impact on the business tablet market, it made more sense to partner up with other companies than sink its own research and development money into creating a whole new tablet on its own, Hazelton said.

The SecuTABLET is another example of Samsung and BlackBerry's new found partnership, one that started in 2014 when BlackBerry said it would manage Samsung devices running Knox through BES.

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