BlackBerry Priv Brings Android Phone Security with a Hefty Price Tag
Security and privacy are at the heart of BlackBerry's positioning for its first ever Android smartphone -- the BlackBerry Priv. The company says it is taking a 3-pronged approach to security for the new phone and hopes it will justify the high price tag and win over enterprise users and others concerned with privacy.
With shipping beginning November 6, the BlackBerry Priv will receive monthly OTA (over-the-air) updates to patch any recently identified security vulnerabilities. BlackBerry said it will also provide hotfix patches as needed when critical Android bugs are discovered that can't wait for the monthly updates.
Businesses with large numbers of BlackBerry devices will also be able to control software updates and patches through the company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server and OTA management systems, the company said yesterday in a blog post.
Priced starting at $699 in the U.S., the Priv is clearly aimed at a niche audience of privacy-focused and security-focused enterprise users. How well the new phone performs could also determine the future direction of BlackBerry itself, which continues to experience a declining share of the global device market.
3-Pronged Approach to Privacy, Security
BlackBerry's foray into Android "requires tremendous resources and hard-earned expertise in protecting users that go far beyond the engineering of the device itself," said David Kleidermacher, the company's chief security officer, in the blog post. "Setting the bar in incident response and patch management is a critical part of the BlackBerry end-to-end Android privacy strategy."
With the Priv, the company will take a three-pronged approach to security: monthly Android updates; hotfix patching as needed; and support for enterprise-managed control of updates, Kleidermacher said.
BlackBerry will release its monthly updates through its online store as well as through the carriers and authorized dealers who agree to participate in those fixes, Kleidermacher said. While it will also work with partners to deliver irregular hotfixes as needed, the company also "has the ability to directly patch all Priv variants and will do so when necessary to protect users and enterprises" he added.
Tizen Moves Past BlackBerry OS
BlackBerry's mobile operating system has now fallen to fifth place globally, behind Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Tizen, the new fourth-place position holder, according to a new report from the research firm Strategy Analytics.
A project of the Linux Foundation, with support from Samsung and Intel, Tizen is billed as a lightweight and open source OS that's designed for wearables and the Internet of Things.
Linda Sui, who prepared the Strategy Analytics report, "Global Smartphone OS Market Share by Region: Q3 2015," told us she expects that BlackBerry's share of the mobile OS market will continue to decline this year and maybe stabilize in 2016. On the other hand, Tizen will continue performing strongly, in particular because of its success in markets like India, she said.
However, Sui added that it's uncertain how much impact the Priv's release might have on BlackBerry's fortunes. "We think it's probably not that easy," she said, noting that the Priv's features and steep price don't make it ideal for mass-market sales. "It will be helpful," she added. "It's the right direction and right move."
If the Priv does well in its target market, Sui said she would expect to see BlackBerry move further into Android devices. For now, though, she said, "This is just a try. They're testing the water."