While BlackBerry was going through its darkest days last year, two things kept coming up as important distinguishers of its product; its keyboard and the Zen-like obsession the company has maintained with security. The combo kept important elected officials worldwide, including Barack Obama, stick with the Waterloo-based company we used to know as RIM.
Now, a company in its own backyard wants to end that.
Last week, Toronto’s Fixmo, a firm that specializes in mobile data security, announced a partnership with American security specialist MobileIron, promising that because of their partnership, “government agencies can confidently move beyond BlackBerry and give users the ability to choose the devices that will make them most productive.”
Fixmo recently rolled out a smart phone security service for Android users, who can sign up for Fixmo SafeWatch’s Beta program for one year at no charge. At the end of the trial, the service will be offered to the general public as a paid service. SafeWatch software has already been in use in Hong Kong since December, when mobile telecom carrier 3 Hong Kong implemented it as part of that company’s suite of security options for their smart phone users.
Samsung Venture Investment Corp chose both Fixmo and Boston-based Cloudant to invest in earlier this year. US-based Cloudant is funded in part by the CIA, which bears out MobileIron’s claim that “federal agencies had very limited choice for mobility.” He means BlackBerry. As the United States government adopts more flexible BYOD policies companies like Fixmo stand to benefit.
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As we have noted before, Fixmo’s leadership has more than passing knowledge of BlackBerry’s inner workings, so it made sense that the company was selected by the National Security Administration to help build its own AutoBerry software, which the NSA had developed to prevent tampering with the mobile devices of its employees.
“Like every other employer, government agencies want to enable their users to use devices that make them most productive, and that means delivering support for iOS and Android,” said Fixmo CEO Rick Segal. The fact that Fixmo has developed a software solution that works across the three major platforms and conforms to strict federal security guidelines would appear to indicate that it’s prepared for this transition to BYOD for civil servants and security-minded corporate clients.
While Samsung works on winning a seal of approval from the Pentagon’s Defense Information Systems Agency, the stopgap security features it has developed with its American partners are already filling a niche that appears to exist, as representatives of America’s defense department publicly muse about the need for variety in its employee mobile device policies. Meanwhile, Fixmo developing its beta SafeWatch cements its hold on the consumer security front.
Does BlackBerry stand to lose its grip on what had been perceived as it most significant differentiator? Fixmo is a small player in a field stacked with several security giants. But the alliances it has made recently are as advanced as a small, foreign company could have expected.