Malware menace threatens Android's enterprise aspirations

08 Mar 2013

Google Android logo

Android vendors have recently been stepping up efforts to convince users that the platform is secure enough for enterprise use.

Security solutions such as the Android Knox platform have been presented as proof that the mobile platform can operate in the business, without any fear of data loss or network infection.

Despite the best efforts of vendors, however, malware levels are higher than ever. A recent report from F-Secure shows that Android malware accounts for nearly 80 percent of all mobile malware threats and is on the rise.

The climbing malware volumes show that Android remains the most popular target for malware developers and, with its variety of both reputable and shady app stores distributing software, the easiest platform to get a virus on.

Those factors could continue to harm Android in the eyes of executives and administrators wary of account thefts and data breaches.

This could pose an opportunity for at least one struggling vendor. BlackBerry is hanging by a thread, but the company has one very compelling argument when it comes to platform security. The BlackBerry Platform, along with its accompanying server system, is known for being easy to secure and difficult for attackers to penetrate.

If the malware crisis continues, RIM could get back on its feet, at the expense of enterprise-hungry Android vendors and carriers.

RIM set to showcase BlackBerry 10 with Super Bowl spot

26 Jan 2013

Research In Motion is planning to showcase its BlackBerry 10 platform with an ad spot on one of the world's most watched events: the Super Bowl.

The NFL championship game, which takes place on 3 February, has doubled as the premiere event for unveiling new advertisements. With a global audience, companies will often use the event as a launching point for their biggest advertising campaigns.

The sports contest has served as the launching pad for Apple's iconic 1984 and Budweiser's "wassup" meme, among countless other popular ad series.

Rim's ad will come just days after the company launches BlackBerry 10. While early reviews of the platform have been glowing, it has yet to be seen whether the platform will catch on with a fickle user base, and whether the next-generation handsets will be able to fully showcase all that BB 10 has to offer.

For RIM, the TV spot is something of a "hail-mary" (to borrow an American football term.) The company is circling the drain and should BB10 not prove a hit with consumers and business, RIM will likely find itself going the way of Palm and other failed mobile firms.

The game itself should shape up in RIM's favour. The two participants are teams from San Francisco and Baltimore, meaning plenty of viewers will be tuning in from the US tech hubs of Silicon Valley and the Washington DC beltway.

Hopefully, RIM's new campaign will be a touchdown.

Apple iPad Mini's 7.9in screen goes against Steve Jobs’ “dead on arrival” jibes

24 Oct 2012

Apple iPad Mini tablet with FaceTime and A5 processor

As was widely expected Apple unveiled its new iPad Mini device on Tuesday with chief executive Tim Cook appearing on stage in San Jose to discuss the firm's huge success in the tablet market and unveil the new 7.9in device.

The device - set to compete with offerings from the likes of Google and Amazon - won't be as cheap as some would have liked, starting from £329 for a 16GB version, but given Apple's huge popularity in the market, it will no doubt be snapped up by eager punters once again.

However, what's interesting about the device is that it marks another example of Apple's, and Cook's, willingness to move on from Steve Jobs' legacy on the company.

Jobs famously declared that 7in tablets would be "dead on arrival" in the market when rivals such as Samsung and Research in Motion (RIM) first brought devices out, immediately dismissing the form factor when compared to the firm's own 9.7in offering with the iPad.

Cook, though, seems to disagree and has pushed the development of the 7.9in device - admittedly the top end of 7in - through so it can compete with Google's Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire from Amazon.

Of course Cook is operating in a different market to the one Jobs knew, with competition stronger now than those first offerings from RIM and Samsung and the financial importance of content download sales on tablets increasing all the time, forcing Apple's hand to some degree.

Nevertheless, with the launch of the device, coming so soon after the iPhone 5 with its 4in screen - again ignoring a Jobs' edict that a phone screen should be 3.5in - and the fulsome apology from Cook over Apple Maps, the firm appears to have moved on from Jobs' legacy.

Apple iPhone celebrates its fifth birthday

09 Jan 2012

Apple iPhone 4S

Five years ago today, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs stood on stage at the annual MacWorld event and unveiled a device that would transform the mobile phone market forever.

The device was, of course, the iPhone and it kicked the mobile phone industry into a whole new era, with the effects still being felt today as Google, Research in Motion, Microsoft and Nokia have all been forced to play catch-up in the battle for market share.

Jobs knew Apple was on to a winner when he launched the device, arguing it was far ahead of any other device on the market, which at the time meant unattractive, brick-like machines which lacked the sense of fun and style that were the iPhone's trademarks.

"[The] iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is five years ahead of any other mobile phone. We are all born with the ultimate pointing device - our fingers - and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse," he boasted.

Now, of course, Apple is under more pressure than ever from its rivals, particularly from Android-based handsets from manufacturers like Samsung and HTC, but the continued appetite shown for each new device the firm launches, most recently the iPhone 4S, shows it still has a cutting edge in the market.

The next 12 months are likely to be a key time for the market too after the sad passing of Jobs, with Apple expected to unveil the iPhone 5 at some point in the coming year.

A key figure in this development is likely to be the recently knighted Jony Ive, the head of industrial design at the firm and Jobs' "spiritual partner", whose job it is to produce the next wave of devices at Apple with a clear mission to maintain its status as the top-dog in the smartphone industry.

Certainly, if the firm can achieve the same level of success in the next five years with its iPhone devices as it did in the first five, Ive will have proved himself a worthy successor, with a little help from Tim Cook of course.

RIM faces challenges to get CIO buy-in for Office 365 support

25 Oct 2011

BlackBerry Cloud ServicesThe announcement that RIM is adding support to Microsoft Office 365 should be welcome news to firms that have investments in BlackBerrys and Microsoft's email system, a group which no doubt makes up a large proportion of the business world.

RIM's BlackBerry Business Cloud Services offers access to Microsoft Exchange Online email, as well as calendar, contacts, tasks and memos via the BlackBerry. And even better for IT workers is the news that they can provision, manage and secure individual handsets using a web-based console.

If RIM handles this rollout correctly, it could reinvigorate its popularity in the business world, letting its enterprise customers take advantage of the latest cloud technologies from Microsoft while still retaining the famed BlackBerry security standards.

However, there are still challenges for RIM to overcome, highlighted to V3 during a conversation with the global IT manager of a UK media company off the back of Tuesday's announcement.

The first of these is the recent BlackBerry outage issues.

"Our confidence in RIM has taken a bit of a bashing recently with the outages. Do I really want to put 200 users in a new cloud service, when the reliability hasn't been proved?" he said.

Another issue is the early stage status of the BlackBerry Business Cloud Services. The company V3 spoke to is in the process of a move to Office 365, so has been eagerly awaiting this move from RIM.

"As someone who's responsible for the email of the entire company, am I really comfortable using a beta version?" he questioned.

However, he added that there is pressure from elsewhere in the business to adopt the technology as soon as possible, now that the investment has been made in Office 365.

"I've got close to 200 BlackBerry users, and otherwise I need to keep those mail boxes in house, rather than move them to the cloud," he said.

On the positive side, he welcomed the news that this technology could be free of charge for organisations, as there was a concern that there would be an additional cost to tie the two products together.

And he supported V3's initial suspicions that this release has been timed to help RIM wipe away lingering concerns over the recent service outages.

"The expectation was that this release wouldn't be ready until Christmas, so it's very useful that they're doing it now," he said.

If RIM did indeed rush this one out earlier than planned, hopefully it won't backfire and end up with glitches in the technology and more unhappy customers.

RIM founder Mike Lazaridis apologises for outage in web video

13 Oct 2011

Research in Motion founder Mike Lazaridis has been forced to take to the web to personally apologise for the outages affecting users across the globe this week.

He said it's too early to say if the issue has been completely fixed, but added that normal service levels are just around the corner for EMEA.

"Since launching BlackBerry in 1999, it's been my goal to provide reliable, real time communications around the world," he said. "We did not deliver on that goal this week. Not even close. You expect better from us and I expect better from us."

Lazaridis, however, did warn that there would be "some instability" as the problem was resolved.

There was also a rare admission of failure on the part of RIM, in the sluggish way it initially communicated with its customers.

Many took to Twitter in the early days of the outage to express their anger not only at being left without a business critical service, but also for being given no information on what was happening and what was being done by RIM to fix it.

"We know that you want to hear more from us, and we're working to update you more frequently to update you through our websites and social media channels as we gather more information," he said.

Tottenham MP wants BlackBerry Messenger shut down

09 Aug 2011

As London braces for a possible fourth night of violence, the local MP for Tottenham, where rioting first erupted on Saturday, has apparently called for BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to be shut down this evening to disrupt the plans of would-be rioters.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, David Lammy said that the service is helping the rioters to organise themselves in a way that leaves the police constantly one step behind.

The point has been made before, and holds some truth given that BBM's encrypted messages effectively give the looters a private social network to communicate without fear of surveillance.

Twitter has also been blamed for helping groups to co-ordinate their efforts in an agile and dynamic way, although the authorities, of course, are technically able to monitor these communications.

It remains to be seen whether shutting BBM would actually do much to dent the success of the rioters. Some have suggested, in fact, that mobile operators could already be complying with the authorities to allow access to mobile data.

If this is true, and if RIM complies in decrypting the messages, it could be better to keep the service up and running to monitor messages and catch those responsible.

Met needs to start engaging better with Twitter rather than blame it for riots

08 Aug 2011

As London prepares for a potential third night of sporadic rioting in the wake of the fatal shooting by police of father of four Mark Duggan, questions are inevitably being asked about the technologies which many believe are to blame.

In a tiresomely predictable backlash, the Metropolitan Police blamed social media this morning for helping groups of rioters to organise quickly and dynamically in a way that police were incapable of responding to speedily enough.

There are a couple of questions that beg to be asked if this is the case: why aren't the police capable of monitoring social media better, and haven't they heard of BlackBerry Messenger?

Starting in Tottenham, the rioting has spread to Brixton, Enfield, Walthamstow and even Oxford Circus, and arrests are being made in Hackney at the time of writing.

To say that it has caught the police by surprise is an understatement, but to blame it on Twitter and other forms of social media is to ignore the underlying cause of the unrest and, quite literally, to blame the messenger.

It also underlines just how far the police have to go before they become social media savvy. Having reportedly just received a four-fold funding increase which will enable the Police Central e-Crime Unit to swell its numbers from 20 to 85, maybe now would be a good time to engage properly with Web 2.0.

The tech vendors have certainly wasted no time in broadcasting the fact that the tools are out there to enable organisations to do just that.

Alcatel-Lucent gets a prize for being the first to ping into my inbox, explaining that its Genesys Social Engagement offering can help organisations monitor social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter in real time.

The tool works for a big brand keen to engage with its customers and prevent bad publicity just as much as it could for the police to track trends and prevent violence.

Not only is the Met wrong to blame social media, though, it is also probably wrong to single it out, after news emerged that BlackBerry Messenger has been a potentially more pervasive tool used by rioters to organise activities.

This encrypted instant message-type service effectively gives its senders anonymity, although it is pretty clear that BlackBerry maker RIM will hand over encryption keys if asked.

It's lazy and ignorant to blame technology for the spread of social unrest. Twitter, social networks and other communications tools have saved countless lives as well as occasionally enabling the sort of mindless violence we've seen in parts of London in recent days.

If it wasn't Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger, people would find another way to communicate and rally. I don't seem to remember web-based tools being implicated in the Poll Tax riots.

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