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OK, BlackBerry, what else have you got besides security?

Evan Schuman | Nov. 26, 2014
The once-dominant mobile-email player’s latest pitch is irrelevant for today’s smartphone buyers. Can the company’s BYOD pitch save the day?

blackberry passport
Credit: Maurizio Pesce via Wikimedia, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

BlackBerry's pitch to get back into the warm embrace of corporate IT shops seems logical enough at first glance: We're the most secure in mobile. Mobile is where all of your data and interactions are heading. Therefore you should give us all of your corporate business.

But when you take a closer look, the argument crumbles. It's not going to arrest BlackBerry's plummeting enterprise market share

BlackBerry still has some good selling points on the security front, and it hits all of those in the current campaign, arguing that BlackBerry phones have better security because they protect not just data, but voice, email and text communications as well. Of course, BlackBerry has cited security as its great differentiator for years, to no avail, and this new campaign probably wouldn't have a chance of reverberating beyond its core markets in areas such as finance, healthcare and the military if that were the extent of the message. So BlackBerry, like a flailing politician far behind in the polls, turns to that old standby, fear. It cites headlines about cyberattacks, the implication being that BlackBerry phones could have saved the day. The problem is that -- well, no. None of the security disasters cited involved cellphones at all. 

I hope BlackBerry doesn't think it's going to fool enterprise decision-makers with this argument. It doesn't survive close examination any better than a residential developer who tries to sell homes in a neighborhood that has had a lot of burglaries by touting steel bars that protect furnace exhaust vents. "That sounds good," you say, "but have any area burglars used that hole to gain access?" No, the contractor says. "Then why don't you instead protect the means of entry the burglars are typically using?" Because that's not our differentiator. 

Well, a company in as much trouble as BlackBerry does what it can to stay in the game. There's another argument that the company could have made that makes more sense, but it has its own problems. That is the argument that thieves will soon target voice and text as ways to gather information that can be sold. The problem is that this argument rests on something that could happen but isn't happening yet. Budget-challenged IT leaders don't have enough money to protect tech resources against today's cyberattacks. Spending millions to protect resources not yet under attack might be strategically sound, but it doesn't work tactically.

There's a legitimate point behind BlackBerry's security argument. Apple's latest phones -- the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus -- have gotten a lot of publicity for enhanced security, courtesy of tokenization, biometric authentication, an isolated secure element chip and geolocation authentication. That's not shabby at all. The problem is that all of that security is focused on Apple Pay -- it doesn't do much beyond protecting transactions using the phone.


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