Blackberry finds hope for the future in its first major technology licensing partnership

by Steve Blum • , ,

Sometimes you get the best stuff at the very end.

Blackberry unveiled a new tablet device this week, called the Secutablet. With a price north of $2,000, it’s intended for a limited market but it does show that the company finally has a plausible long term survival strategy. It’s a change of direction for Blackberry, one that executives have talked about for the past three years. Instead of making devices and operating systems, they are focusing on their core competency – security – and leveraging the brand identity that goes along with it.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the Secutablet that comes from Blackberry itself. The device is made by Samsung (which is also integrating Blackberry technology into its enterprise products), the operating system appears to be Android (although that’s still to be confirmed) and the apps, or at least the secure shell that the apps run in, come from IBM. Presumably, the secret sauce that Blackberry adds to the mix is its secure telecoms system.

That system, and the proprietary technology it’s based on, is Blackberry’s crown jewel. If they’ve finally figured out how to usefully integrate it into the devices and operating systems that have won the battle of the marketplace, then it means Blackberry has a future, albeit one’s that’s greatly diminished from the days when it was the top dog of mobile data.

The Secutablet itself is a niche device that will appeal to people that need access to very secure documents and other data. It’s a media consumption device, because that’s what tablets do well. Think of it as a substitute for paper copies of documents. I’d bet that a key feature is that a document cannot leave a device that it’s sent to (or be intercepted en route, of course), preventing unauthorised sharing. That kind of network security is an additional protection on top of the encryption and access control that any tablet could support, and it’s Blackberry’s sole remaining competitive advantage.