The Straight Story on President Obama's Smartphone
We ourselves have reported that it was possible that President Obama may need to ditch his BlackBerry for a Windows Mobile device, the Sectera Edge. It's actually pretty slick, with one-button access to switch between hyper-secure and non-secure modes. Plus, unlike BlackBerrys, its email isn't routed up through Canada -- something that would be an absolute no go for presidental missives.
Well, here's the rub: we were wrong to call it a Windows Mobile device, turns out that it's a Windows CE device. The difference? Windows CE is the OS that underlies Windows Mobile. In essence it's a modular framework -- you can pick a little of this, a little of that, hit "Go" and kapow -- you have something like Windows Mobile, or a set-top DVR, or an embedded system for a smart car. (Ok, it's not that simple, but that's the gist of it). It's also quite a bit more secure than, well, darn near anything else out there on the planet. PCMag has a great write up on it if you're interested.
So that's the first thing. The second thing -- nobody outside the White House knows if this is his new smartphone. That's right -- all the reporting you've seen claiming that "Obama gets to keep his BlackBerry" or that this Edge is his new device is based on assumption. Near as we can tell, a bunch of tech-blogs like us were speculating about the Sectera Edge and it trickled its way out to the political blogosphere and then into the mainstream media and somewhere in that chain the "Maybe" part got stripped out. Turns out that "Maybe" part is, you know, kind of important.
It also appears that Obama may be dual-devicing it, as he may get to keep his actual BlackBerry for personal, non-president-related email.
Above, CNN manages to get the story right, showing the relevant part of the press conference where the administration says "He's keeping his BlackBerry" (for shame, btw, because "BlackBerry" is not synonomous with "Smartphone") and that it's secure. CNN then goes so far as to show a short demo of the Sectera Edge, but rightly admits that the White House is staying mum on what exact device Obama will have on his hip.
Here's the short version: He's got something and we don't know for sure that it's the Sectera Edge. Either way, you'll likely never get to have one yourself, no matter how hard you (ahem) hope.
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I was watching this on TV when the story aired. It was a little annoying to see them use the term Blackberry as a generic term for any communications device with a keyboard. But using brand names as generic terms is not unusual. Just consider Cresent Wrench, VELCRO, Walkman, Band-Aid and lots of other trademarks. I've had people ask me if my AT&T Tilt were an iPhone too.
Thats very interesting stuff. It makes perfect sense that our government would want to use encrypted devices that were developed by Americans using American encryption algorithms by American companies on American servers. What does not make sense is that all of the US House of Representatives and the Senate use Blackberries where traffic is routed through Canada. Go figure. We need to get them off the crackberries too. :) Its a matter of National Security. :)