by Al Sacco

BarackBerry: Look at What Will Replace President Obama’s BlackBerry

Jan 22, 20095 mins
Data Center

I’m going to keep this relatively short and sweet as I’ve had just about enough of the Barack Obama BlackBerry drama—at least until some sort of official decision on whether or not he can hold onto his handheld, or any other, is made–but I wanted to share my take on the whole story, as well as an image of and technical specifications for the device that just may replace the new American President’s beloved RIM smartphone. And guess what? It’s NOT a BlackBerry.

image of U.S. President Barack Obama with BlackBerry on Inauguration Day
Barack Obama with BlackBerry on Inauguration Day (via Newsweek)

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has approved the General Dynamics Sectera Edge device for the U.S. President, according to blogger Marc Ambinder. General Dynamics is a defense contractor; the Sectera Edge is a Windows Mobile device. (I can just picture the folks in Redmond right now, sitting around a few of those fancy Surface PCs, drawing mustaches on pics of Mike Lazaridis and laughing it up at RIM’s expense.)

The Sectera Edge has reportedly been approved by the NSA for both “Top Secret” voice communications and “Secret” e-mail and Web access—Top Secret and Secret are two different levels of federal classification, with the former being more strict. To date, no BlackBerry smartphone has received such approval, at least that I know of, for a variety of reasons.

The Sectera Edge sure isn’t pretty, but it packs a wallop, with support for both GSM and CDMA cellular networks; Wi-Fi; a full-color, touch-sensitive display with additional secondary LCD; slot for external microSD memory cards; and multiple USB ports, serial ports and “PDA keys” for varying levels of secure communications. And it’s thick (awkward) topside external antennae conjures up images of past Palm Treos, namely the 650 and 700 models.

It’s also designed to be dirt-resistant, waterproof, and more durable than your average smartphone. The price tag? A cool $3,350, with two-year warranty. (Sectera Edge accessories are equally pricey; a power adapter for an in-vehicle charger/lighter slot goes for $100, according to CNET.)

The General Dynamics Sectera Edge
The General Dynamics Sectera Edge

The exact version of Windows Mobile that will run on the Sectera Edge is unclear at this point, but it’s very likely to be some version of Windows Mobile Professional, or something similar, as the device has a touch screen and Mobile Office, with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and access to the Windows Media Player. The device will also feature Internet Explorer, WordPad, and Windows Messenger, which are apparently up to snuff for Secret levels of data communication. (Full specifications on the device are available online.)

Now for my take: I can’t help but put myself in President Obama’s shoes. I believe the President is as addicted to his BlackBerry as I am to my Bold 9000. And I can tell you with no hesitation that the General Dynamics Sectera Edge is NO BlackBerry, at least from where I’m standing. The best things about BlackBerry smartphones—the OS; the true “push” mail; the keyboard; the stunning design elements; and the collection of unique BlackBerry apps, among other things—are markedly absent from the Sectera Edge. And President Obama’s well aware of this, too, I’m sure.

I’m constantly using a variety of different smartphones—right now it’s a couple of BlackBerrys, a T-Mobile Wing (Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional) and an iPhone

3G. And I’m infinitely more productive via BlackBerry. That’s true for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I’ve spent so much time with the BlackBerry OS that I know it inside and out. But there’s also a certain connection to my BlackBerry that I just don’t feel with any other smartphone—or electronic device for that matter—and I bet my new leader feels the same way.

President Obama’s situation is just little different than my own—though I’d like to think I take my job just as seriously—and the real deciding factor here is security, Security, SECURITY. Rightly so. If the NSA says the BlackBerry’s not secure enough for federal use by the President, I trust its judgment. But I feel for Barack Obama just the same. After all, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a General Dynamics Sectera Edge…even if it does have a lot of funky buttons and flashy doohickeys—and even if I had a spare $3,400 lying around.

I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that the Obama administration can come up with some solution to let the man keep his trusty ‘Berry—at least as a personal device. Taking on a new job as the leader of the free world’s got to be stressful enough. I can’t even imagine having to simultaneously tackle BlackBerry withdrawal.


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