White House testing Android handsets — so what?

The twitterverse is buzzing with word that a particular residence in Washington is testing smart phones from a brand other than the one President Barak Obama totes around in his holster.

“BlackBerry suffers blow as White House tests Samsung, LG Phones,” hollers the Wall Street Journal.

Obama is known for his devotion to his handset, having told security officials that he wouldn’t part with it for a more secure government-issued smart phone after he was elected.

But it should come as no surprise that other handsets are being looked at. That’s what the defence department has been doing for some time despite the fact that federal departments favour BlackBerry. The days of exclusive deployments are over, except perhaps for C-suite level officials. Having one supplier makes it harder to negotiate deals so it makes sense financially to diversify if possible.

Presumably, if other makes of smart phones are approved some White House staffers may switch to another brand. Obama won’t be one of them.

If BlackBerry’s reputation depends on having him for a customer, the company is in more trouble that we thought.

On the other hand, his term expires in January, 2017. Who knows what the new chief will hold?

(After this story was published BlackBerry emailed to point out the White House told the Washington Post that the executive office of the president wasn’t involved in a test.

“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 statement said.  “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.”)

More seriously was the not unexpected word this week that BlackBerry’s cost-cutting campaign continues with 120 positions cut in Waterloo and 90 in Ottawa with the closing of a product development centre there. At the same time it said it has struck a deal to sell 3 million square feet of building space and vacant land to help prop up its balance sheet. That deal will close later this year.

We’ll get a better picture the company’s finances when it releases its latest quarterly results March 28.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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