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White House may ditch BlackBerry, adopt LG or Samsung, ignore Apple

More bad news for struggling Canuckphone as high-profile customer looks elsewhere

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Updated What BlackBerry and new CEO John Chen definitely don't need right now is bad publicity, but that's exactly what The Wall Street Journal has provided them, with a report that one of its remaining high-profile customers, the White House, is mulling over a switch from the formerly high-flying Canuckphone to devices from Samsung or LG.

This news comes from the WSJ's ever-loquacious "person familiar with the matter," who fingered the Samsung and LG devices as the ones under study. He or she also said that there was no indication that President Obama himself would be giving up his customized BlackBerry, but only that the Samsung and LG smartphones were being tested for "internal use."

That testing would be done by the White House's own IT team and the White House Communications Agency (WHCA), self-described as "a one-of-a-kind military unit dedicated to providing premier, worldwide, vital information services and communications support to the president and his staff."

The Defense Department was characteristically non-specific when approached for comment by the WSJ. "We can confirm that the White House Communications Agency, consistent with the rest of the Department of Defense, is piloting and using a variety of mobile devices," they replied.

BlackBerry has earned its reputation as a secure mobile communications platform, but other smartphone operating systems and devices are catching up after realizing that bagging significant government and enterprise contracts requires advances in device security and management.

But don't automatically expect that it's Android that the White House and the WHCA are testing. Samsung's upcoming "Huron" Windows Phone 8.1 handset is reportedly in the FCC-approval stage, to be offered by Verizon, and LG – which has already produced a handful of Windows phones – recently reaffirmed its commitment to that platform.

Windows Phone may still be a niche player in the smartphone market, with a market share far below that of Android and iOS, but it has one thing to brag about: according to comScore, it recently snuck ahead of BlackBerry in US smartphone use, 3.2 per cent to 3.1 per cent.

Speaking of Android, Samsung has recently put a lot of effort into security [PDF] and mobile device management (MDM) for its Galaxy handsets. BlackBerry, however, is not resting on its reputation for security, but hoping to enhance it along with its government-contract cred by opening a "Security Innovation Center" in Washington DC later this year.

"We are committed to working with government and industry experts to solve some of the biggest challenges we face in securing mobile communication," BlackBerry's Chen said when announcing that center.

One of those challenges, it appears, will be keeping his company's phones in the White House. ®

Bootnote

And where are Apple, iOS, and the iPhone in this competition? Not to be found, according to the WSJ's aforementioned person familiar with the matter – despite the fact that the POTUS owns an iPad.

Update

BlackBerry has provided us with the following statement: "We value the long-term relationship we've had with the White House and have been securing their mobile communications for more than a decade. The U.S. government requires the highest levels of security. We were the first mobility platform to receive the 'Authority to Operate' certification from the Department of Defense.

"Governments test new technologies frequently, but nevertheless the U.S. government continues to choose BlackBerry for its unmatched security and cost effectiveness. Other vendors such as Samsung and LG still have a long way to go to catch up to meet the government's stringent requirements and certifications. BlackBerry's operating system has already received the highest security approvals from the United States, Great Britain and NATO, and our latest operating system, BlackBerry 10, is already certified for high-security users in various NATO countries."

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