Apple beats Android in the DoD, but Blackberry still rules

Posted by Rob Enderle

Most people likely believe that iOS, Android and Blackberry are all on equal footing when it comes to security - with the same chance of winning device clearance at the DoD.

The reality? From the DoD's perspective there is only one Android handset the Pentagon is actually interested in, and that is the one of the Samsung phones.

But remember, in the murky corridors of the DoD, Blackberry still rules.

Key Numbers

I recently contacted the DoD, which confirmed that the department has a total of 8,700 Android phones in test and deployment. This is actually rather impressive, as most tests of this nature have difficulty going above three digits, let along four.

Interestingly, the Department of Defense seems to be focused on the Knox lineup of phones from Samsung. This isn't exactly surprising, as Samsung currently dominates the Android handset market, and perhaps the vendor most focused on the security aspect of such devices.

However when you find out that the Pentagon also has a whopping 41,000 iPhones in trial, you can't help but get the sense that Android really isn’t that much of a big deal for the government. Indeed, it appears as if they prefer Apple’s device over Samsung’s at nearly a 5x rate.

This fact is a particularly strong testament to Cupertino's efforts to create a far more secure ecosystem and highly consistent user experience. Think about it - without a security focus like Samsung’s Knox, Apple still kicked Samsung all over the DoD mobile device playground.

Then we get to Blackberry and suddenly both Apple and Samsung seem insignificant. Indeed, Blackberry boasts a total 470,000 products in deployment and test. This clearly suggests the DoD prefers this platform at a shocking 10x rate over the iPhone. Simply put, Blackberry offers up a clear business focus. In an era where everyone is watching government closely, the risk of someone calling an organization to task for a device that is seen as a consumer, luxury product is certainly a risk to be concerned about.

In addition, Blackberry was designed with security at its core, an approach that is far more pervasive than Apple’s and isn’t an overlay like Samsung’s. Frankly, I’m actually surprised the DoD is even considering Android - especially given how easily the OS is compromised by something like a rooted key logger which, yes, would likely compromise even Knox.

Speed

Another advantage fielded by Blackberry is speed. Indeed, I recently reviewed a Blackberry 10 deployment by a Canadian Security firm. Initially, I assumed it would list security as a primary reason for choosing the platform over iOS and Android. However, this wasn’t the case, as it was selected based on sheer speed.

Meaning, the messages just got to the phones faster. We are also talking physical home security so when someone has a break in, seconds do matter. Given how quickly things can get out of hand, especially if you have a military problem, seconds could make the difference whether an attack by a hostile entity is successful or successfully mitigated.
So yes, speed could make the difference between whether an individual reads about a failed attempt or having folks talking about the event at a funeral. So yes, I hope speed matters to the DoD as much as it did to the security firm, and I tend to imagine that it does.

Wrapping Up: Will Blackberry Return?

It is clear to me that in a number of non-consumer segments, Blackberry boasts a significant advantage when it comes to security, speed and a viable physical keyboard option. However, we still have a problem with changing opinions. To be sure, both Apple and IBM struggled during their respective turnaround efforts, with both taking nearly 5 years to convince the market they could be trusted again. In hindsight, the industry heavyweights had internally crossed this performance line years earlier.

So while I think Blackberry is demonstrating it can be successful, I wonder how long it will take for us to see them as a winning company once again. Perception is critical in terms of winning the sales and app support the corporation will need if it intends to contend for the lead once again.