by Al Sacco

BlackBerry teams with Samsung on locked-down, high-priced tablet

Mar 16, 20153 mins
MobileMobile SecuritySmall and Medium Business

BlackBerry announced SecuTABLET, a pricey new tablet PC built with Samsung hardware and the Android OS thatu2019s designed for public sector and government use.

This past weekend, at the CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany, BlackBerry announced its next tablet computer … sort of. 

The Secusmart SecuTABLET is a customized version of Samsung’s popular Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Wi-Fi + LTE tablet, with secure software from Secusmart and IBM. BlackBerry acquired Secusmart, a company that makes software and services for secure communications, last July.

Looking to not repeat tablet history

The new SecuTABLET isn’t a pure BlackBerry tablet — like the company’s first and only foray in the market, the BlackBerry Playbook — and it doesn’t run a BlackBerry OS. The Canadian company was snake-bit by the Playbook, which was a failure any way that you look at it, so it is somewhat surprising to see BlackBerry release a new tablet, even it if is just a bolstered version of one of Samsung’s latest Android tablets.

IBM provides the software for “wrapping” secure applications so they’re kept separate from other data and services on the tablet, but you can still use popular consumer applications alongside the secure apps. The SecuTABLET also has Samsung’s KNOX secure software for Android, which employs secure boot technology to ensure the OS hasn’t been modified or tampered with.

The tablet is designed for government and public sector use, where mobile access to certain types of data is subject to security regulations and remote access via traditional, non-certified devices is barred. The German Federal Office for Information Security is currently testing the SecuTABLET for certification. BlackBerry didn’t specify whether or not any other governments are looking to certify the tablet for official use.

Adding up the tablet tab

A 16GB Galaxy Tab S 10.5 tablet with LTE costs about $630 via AT&T, while the new, customized SecuTABLET version will reportedly retail for roughly $2,380. It’s unclear whether or not the hardware will be modified, and the tablet will come with Secusmart’s Security Card microSD card, which is equipped with a set of encryption features that protect sensitive data. Secusmart doesn’t list the price of its secure memory card on its website. That’s a total price difference of $1,750, which is pricey for a tablet but could be a small price to pay for proven — and certified — security peace of mind.

The announcement is notable because it represents the latest move in BlackBerry’s ongoing effort to offer secure services for a variety of mobile platforms. BlackBerry announced a number of software offerings designed to manage and secure iOS and Android devices during the past few years, but the SecuTABLET is unique because it’s a piece of hardware that’s dually branded by Samsung and BlackBerry/Secusmart.

Today, BlackBerry also announced a new version of one of its smartphones, which demonstrates the company’s ongoing commitment to producing hardware and not just security software. The new BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite is a variant of the P’9983 smartphone made with different materials, and it will also be expensive at $1,950 when it goes on sale “in the coming weeks,” according to BlackBerry.