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BlackBerry hits back at Android alternatives to its Balance technology

26 Feb 2013
BlackBerry 10 at BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012

BlackBerry has hit back at rival vendors in the smartphone market who are looking to beef up security in an attempt to make their devices more attractive to corporate buyers.

The firm was responding to announcements at Mobile World Congress (MWC) from Samsung and others of technologies or initiatives aimed at boosting the security of mobile platforms, especially Google's Android.

Samsung unveiled its Knox security, which incorporates Security Enhanced (SE) Android technology developed by the US NSA (National Security Agency).

One of the features of this is support for a secure container to separate business apps and data from personal data on the handset, using file system level encryption.

The move follows last year's introduction of Samsung for Enterprise (Safe) on its Galaxy S3 smartphone, adding capabilities such as encryption and VPN support to enhance their corporate appeal.

However, BlackBerry insisted in a statement sent to V3 that its platform still represents the benchmark for corporate security.

"It's not surprising that competitors are scrambling to get into the enterprise, but whatever they announce, one thing won't change. The most secure mobile computing solution is a BlackBerry device running on a BlackBerry platform," said David Smith, executive vice president of mobile computing for BlackBerry.

BlackBerry introduced Balance as part of its BlackBerry 10 platform last month, which likewise partitions the handset into separate work and personal environments.

"Security is deeply embedded into the core of the BlackBerry 10 operating system," said Smith.

"Only BlackBerry Balance can effectively keep sensitive corporate information secure while keeping an individual's personal information private. It enables users to move effortlessly and securely between the professional and personal."

But with Samsung's Knox built upon technology developed by the NSA, it may be hard to see justification for BlackBerry's claims.

Meanwhile, General Dynamics also unveiled its GD Protected technology, which uses the OKL4 mobile hypervisor to divide an LG phone into two separate Android devices, which the user can switch between at the press of a button.

It is also using Samsung's Knox technology to deliver secure voice, video, email and web browsing by isolating the drivers in containers on a specially upgraded Galaxy S3 handset.

One area where BlackBerry could have an advantage is that its handsets are tightly integrated with its own management platform, BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10, providing a complete one-stop solution for enterprise customers, while rivals are partnering up with third-party mobile management vendors to provide this piece of the puzzle.

"With BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, we now offer the ability to manage smartphones and tablets running iOS and Android, in addition to BlackBerry. This gives our enterprise customers the flexibility that they require to manage the BYOD world," said Smith.

Nevertheless, with vendors such as Samsung and General Dynamics offering secure solutions, the enterprise credentials of Android just took a step up, and it looks like BlackBerry might be worried.

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Daniel Robinson

Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.

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