Oct 182012
 

Whoops! BlackBerry rep shows off secret phone

Mexican site Hola Telcel posts a video with a BlackBerry rep demoing the company’s L-Series phone — a device that is supposed to be a secret.

 

C/NET News
by Shara Tibken
October 12, 2012

A BlackBerry rep shows off the company’s new L-Series phone.
(Credit: Hola Telcel )

 

Someone forgot to tell a BlackBerry rep in Mexico that the company’s newest L-Series phone is supposed to be a secret.

The rep demoed the phone to Mexican site Hola Telcel, which posted a video online. During the clip (below), the rep shows off features of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system like the ability to virtually “rewind” a photo taken with the device to settle on an expression you most prefer.

The video isn’t the first leak about the device, with photos and video showing up last month. RIM is counting on the new devices to help it better compete against Apple and the Android handset vendors, particularly Samsung. The company hasn’t provided many specifics about the device thus far, but the L-Series is expected to hit stores early next year.

Here’s the video from Hola Telcel (requires Vimeo login ):

** (NOTE: Unfortunately the video was removed… Hmmm!)

 

Related stories:

 

Direct Link:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57531297-94/whoops-blackberry-rep-shows-off-secret-phone/

Oct 172012
 

The BlackBerry as Black Sheep

Quick Hide the BlackBerry, It’s Too Uncool

 

The New York Times
by Nicole Perlroth
October 15, 2012

 

BlackBerry vs iPhone

 

Rachel Crosby speaks about her BlackBerry phone the way someone might speak of an embarrassing relative.

“I’m ashamed of it,” said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her.

 

“I want to take a bat to it,” Rachel Crosby, of Los Angeles, says of her creaky BlackBerry. “You can’t do anything with it.” J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

 

The BlackBerry was once proudly carried by the high-powered and the elite, but those who still hold one today say the device has become a magnet for mockery and derision from those with iPhones and the latest Android phones. Research in Motion may still be successful selling BlackBerrys in countries like India and Indonesia, but in the United States the company is clinging to less than 5 percent of the smartphone market — down from a dominating 50 percent just three years ago. The company’s future all depends on a much-delayed new phone coming next year; meanwhile RIM recorded a net loss of $753 million in the first half of the year compared with a profit of more than $1 billion a year earlier.

Among the latest signs of the loss of cachet: One of the first steps Marissa Mayer took as Yahoo’s newly appointed chief executive to remake the company’s stodgy image was to trade in employees’ BlackBerrys for iPhones and Androids. BlackBerrys may still linger in Washington, Wall Street and the legal profession, but in Silicon Valley they are as rare as a necktie.

As the list shrinks of friends who once regularly communicated using BlackBerry’s private messaging service, called BBM, many a BlackBerry owner will not mince words about how they feel about their phone.

“I want to take a bat to it,” Ms. Crosby said, after waiting for her phone’s browser to load for the third minute, only to watch the battery die. “You can’t do anything with it. You’re supposed to, but it’s all a big lie.”

The cultural divide between BlackBerry loyalists and everyone else has only grown more extreme over the last year as companies that previously issued employees BlackBerrys — and only BlackBerrys — have started surrendering to employee demands for iPhones and Android-powered smartphones.

Goldman Sachs recently gave its employees the option to use an iPhone. Covington & Burling, a major law firm, did the same at the urging of associates. Even the White House, which used the BlackBerry for security reasons, recently started supporting the iPhone. (Some staff members suspect that decision was influenced by President Obama, who now prefers his iPad for national security briefings. A spokesman for the White House declined to comment.)

Out in the world, the insults continue. Victoria Gossage, a 28-year-old hedge fund marketer, said she recently attended a work retreat at Piping Rock Club, an upscale country club in Locust Valley, N.Y., and asked the concierge for a phone charger. “First he said, ‘Sure.’ Then he saw my phone and — in this disgusted tone — said, ‘Oh no, no, not for that.’ ”

“You get used to that kind of rejection,” she said.

“BlackBerry users are like Myspace users,” sneers Craig Robert Smith, a Los Angeles musician. “They probably still chat on AOL Instant Messenger.” 

BlackBerry outcasts say that, increasingly, they suffer from shame and public humiliation as they watch their counterparts mingle on social networking apps that are not available to them, take higher-resolution photos, and effortlessly navigate streets — and the Internet — with better GPS and faster browsing. More indignity comes in having to outsource tasks like getting directions, booking travel, making restaurant reservations and looking up sports scores to their exasperated iPhone and Android-carting partners, friends and colleagues.

“I feel absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Gossage. “You’re constantly watching people do all these things on their phones and all I have going for me is my family’s group BBM chats.”

Ryan Hutto, a director at a San Francisco health information company, said he frequently depended on others, often his wife, for music playlists, navigation and sports scores. “After two or three questions, people start to get irritated,” Mr. Hutto said.

 

His wife, Shannon Hutto, says with a sigh: “Anytime we go anywhere, I always have to pull up the map. If we’re searching for a restaurant, I pull up the Yelp app. If we need a reservation, I pull up OpenTable. I kind of feel like his personal assistant.”

 

Still, a few BlackBerry users say they’re sticking with the device, mainly because of the BlackBerry’s efficient, physical keyboard. “I use my BlackBerry by choice,” said Lance Fenton, a 32-year-old investor who frequently travels and needs to send e-mails from the road. “I can’t type e-mails on touch-screen phones.”

Mr. Fenton said he could not wrap his head around iPhone fever. “I constantly ask people, ‘What is so great about it?’ and they have these nonsensical answers,” he said. “Someone told me I’m missing out on some app that maps their ski runs. I ski four days a year. On the road, I don’t need a ski app.”

RIM’s most recent efforts to hold on to loyal customers, as well as software developers building apps for its next generation of phones scheduled to be available next year, have elicited universal cringes. In a recent promotional video, Alec Saunders, RIM’s vice president for developer relations, is shown belting out a rock song titled “Devs, BlackBerry Is Going to Keep on Loving You,” a riff on the 1981 power ballad by REO Speedwagon “Keep on Loving You.”

“This is the sign of a desperate company,” said Nick Mindel, a 26-year-old investment analyst. “Come on, BlackBerry, I always had some faith, but you just lost a customer. Frankly, I don’t think they can afford to lose many more.”

After eight years with a BlackBerry, Mr. Mindel said he just joined the wait list for the iPhone 5. When it arrives, he said, “I’m considering removing my BlackBerry battery, pouring in cement, and using the BlackBerry as an actual paperweight.”

 

Direct Link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/16/technology/blackberry-becomes-a-source-of-shame-for-users.html?_r=0

Aug 232012
 

Change In RIM Technology Signals Beginning Of End

 

INFORMATION WEEK
By Chris Spera (BYTE)
August 22, 2012

 

 

 

Grab the opera glasses, the fat lady is singing. BGR reports that Blackberry 10 (BB10) devices won’t work with current Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) servers. Stick BES with a fork, kids, because if this is accurate, RIM is done. The next version of BES, 5.0.4, is a maintenance update, and after that, RIM is closing the books on BES–and the Blackberry way of life.


Why is it over? RIM can’t make QNX work with BES features and security functions. That means all of the new devices RIM has planned to introduce with the release of BB10 can’t be used with any current BES installation. And that means that the mobile device management software that provides healthcare companies, security firms, and the U.S. government with secure push email services has reached end of life. RIM isn’t going to update the software after version 5.0.4.

 

What’s worse is that current Java-based Blackberry devices won’t work with the new version of BES. Enterprises that plan on running both BB10 and BB7 devices together will have to run both BES 5.0.4 and BES NG for next generation. BES NG also doesn’t support email sync, calendar sync, or contact sync. Unfortunately, BES NG appears to be really nothing more than a glorified VPN tunnel from the device to the server, which syncs directly with Exchange, Gmail, and, I would suspect, any POP-compatible mail server.

 

Did I mention that BES NG doesn’t support push? Currently, mail is pulled off the mail server. All of the heavy lifting for the sync? It’s done on the device end of the equation, which has me really wondering who would want to license the software in the first place.

 

The BGR article doesn’t mention anything about the BES NG MDM console. I have no idea if or how the new MDM will manage devices on the domain, or whether it will provide secure remote wipe, or any kind of device location services. One can hope, but if BES NG really is nothing more than a glorified VPN tunnel, this represents a huge reduction in functionality. At this point, RIM is taking the one thing that distinguishes it from the rest of the smartphone market–that users find of value and that might have saved RIM’s bacon–and appears to be leaving it behind.

 

RIM issued a statement refuting most of the BGR report. But given the challenges RIM has experienced recently–the layoffs it has announced and executed, the talent it has undoubtedly lost both voluntarily and involuntarily, the technology issues it ran into with its delayed Playbook native PIM apps and the delayed release of BB10–it’s clear RIM is having issues with technology and platform updates. And given that RIM CEO Thorsten Heins seems willing to give ground in order to appear to be moving the company toward a technology and platform release in a quickly closing window of opportunity, the changes BGR outlines make sense.

 

The latest news feels like the other shoe has dropped. If it’s wrong, I’d love to hear from RIM how BES NG works with BB7 devices, and how it provides the same secure push mail, calendar, and contact sync services we’ve enjoyed for the last 10 years.

 

But if it’s right, this truly is the beginning of the end for RIM. Your thoughts? Please leave a comment below.

 

Direct Link:  http://www.informationweek.com/byte/news/personal-tech/smart-phones/240006022

 

Jan 022012
 

Android vs iOS vs BlackBerry: Which is the most secure holiday gift?

 

Which smartphone and tablet OS provides the best security?

Steve Hunt and the Neohapsis team provide a guide for holiday gift-givers (or any gadget lover).

By Steve Hunt and Neohapsis
December 14, 2011 

CSO

As the holiday season approaches, smartphones and tablets are some of the most in-demand items for anyone with even a hint of gadget love in their DNA. Coverage of these exciting new tools is full of hype about new features (SIRI) and also new fears (Carrier IQ). With the sheer volume of marketing and fear being thrown around—eclipsing even the number of holiday songs on the radio—it can be hard for even well-informed users to discern meaning from marketing when it comes to security on mobile devices.

 

[Also see 5 questions to ask about tablet security | Creating a smart mobile device security policy]

 

It’s a bit like gifting a car: The right choice can greatly improve the recipient’s life, while a bad choice could leave them with problems for years to come. This guide is to help you with the security side of the decision, to enable you to take it into account and make the right choices for that special someone (or special self!)

Neohapsis Labs (an independent security think tank based in Chicago) has looked into the general security issues and distilled them down to this short guide (a more detailed report will be released early next year). While there are many available choices of device, the main security decision is what platform to get. There are some main contenders at present (iOS, Android, Blackberry) and a few aspiring players (e.g. Windows Phone, Meego, WebOS, Bada). We are not covering Symbian due to Nokia’s recent decision to move to windows phone 7 in 2012. We will focus on the differences between the platforms and not go into any cross-platform issues such as widespread use of mobile analytics packages to track users for advertising purposes.

 

Android

Google’s Android operating system is the most widely deployed platform on tablets and smartphones at present, with a large number of vendors providing their own customized versions. Integrating smoothly with many Google services, Android is rapidly evolving with the latest version (the very well reviewed Ice Cream Sandwich) offering a slew of new features.

Unfortunately, when it comes to security, Android still has a long way to go. The large delay in releasing fixes for security issues is problematic as it requires a different release for each carrier, manufacturer and model. As a result, many Android devices are stuck using old and insecure versions of the operating system.

When it comes to applications, the primary source of applications is the Android Market, which contains tens of thousands of applications, most of them free. These applications are uploaded by developers and go through no review before being published, allowing fast turnaround, but leaving the door open for malicious apps to linger until Google hits the remote kill switch to remove them from devices (as has happened numerous times). Alternatively, curated markets such as the Amazon Appstore show promise for preventing malicious apps getting in—however they also have drawn complaints for the slow rollout of application updates.

Because it uses a very flexible model for applications, Android apps can do things that cannot be done on the other platforms. A user is notified what an application will be allowed to do at install time, and can choose to install it or not. Once installed, third party apps can (if authorized at install time) read and send messages, make and receive calls, access the internet and turn the microphone or camera on and off.

Because users are not very good at either reading or understanding the implications of these permissions, Android applications have been caught sending and receiving premium rate calls and messages, recording users keystrokes or sounds, tracking user locations, or even containing botnet-style malware as might be found on a desktop machine. There are quite a few third party solutions available that purport to secure your device, but their effectiveness is in many cases under question.

The flexibility of Android makes it a great choice for a highly capable user, but it can require quite a bit of knowledge to keep secure in the long run—often this will require that users root the device and install their own custom updates directly if the carrier does not provide them. Clearly not for the technical novice!

 

Blackberry

While Android is taking the biggest bite out of the consumer market, Blackberry has been very much the jewel of the business world. With its users being likened to drug addicts for their dependence upon the device, RIM’s Blackbery devices have earned the designation Crackberry. Even President Obama couldn’t part with his device, reportedly much to the irritation of the Secret Service and delight of Research in Motion.

Security and control are some of the main selling points of Blackberry, with the ability to completely encrypt data, tightly control what is done with the device, restrict what individual applications can and cannot do, require tunneling of any and all internet traffic through the company’s servers, control apps and much more. The downside is that this control comes at a cost, and the ease of management to keep your device secure can be time consuming for a non-enterprise user.

 

[Also read Al Sacco's Mobile predictions for 2012: Security, payments, Windows phone and more on cio.com]

 

Blackberry App World, the source for third party applications, offers a degree of review over all submissions. However, source code is not reviewed by RIM, and only so much can be understood of application behavior. While Blackberry hasn’t been targeted by nearly the same amount of spyware or malware as Android, there have been instances of nefarious applications and spyware-trojaned carrier updates.

The ability to lock down and secure Blackberry devices is definitely a plus, but because much of it was designed with enterprises in mind it can get a bit complex for a standard user unless they are careful. The release of more consumer oriented devices based upon Blackberry 10 shows promise, but as it is unreleased at present, this one should stay on hold for individual users for now.

 

IOS (iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch)

In a market where the market leader is represented by a green robot, and the trailer (Blackberry) is likened to a notoriously addictive drug, the company with second-place market share has a level of customer loyalty and satisfaction often described as a cult. (All of which gives you some idea about how seriously people take these devices!) We are, of course, talking about Apple’s iOS, the platform where it seems every new addition will sell more than the predecessor no matter what they do.

iOS is a slower-moving and far more tightly controlled platform than Android, with features designed to give a consistent, fluid, and controlled experience. As a result, the platform is great for doing things within Apple’s designs, but beyond that it is by design inflexible. Because of the level of control Apple exerts over iOS, users cannot patch vulnerabilities until Apple releases an update – which in sometimes takes months and in many cases older devices are not compatible with the updates and so are never patched.

 

[See a security-approved smartphone!]

 

For applications there is the Apple app store, which Apple can be quite restrictive over. There have been many reported instances of applications being rejected for mysterious/unknown reasons, most famously Google’s voice app in 2009. Because applications are all granted the ability to do everything allowed (with the exceptions of some things such as notifications and reading location) there are no complex permissions for users to keep track of and manage. While there has been at least one instance of a malicious app getting into the App Store, the most notable example was only a researcher’s proof of concept.

Also of note though is the parallel ecosystem surrounding Jailbroken (where users have forcibly removed Apple’s software protections) Apple devices. Jailbreaking gives users the ability to give devices new features, protect themselves from issues which Apple has not yet fixed, and install unapproved (or pirated) applications. At the same time, however, the removal of these protections potentially leaves users more vulnerable from a security perspective, as happened with the ikee worm in 2008.

iOS devices are a good balance when it comes to security, but this does come at a cost of flexibility that more experienced smartphone/tablet users may not like.

 

Windows Phone 7 and Other Aspirants

There are numerous other potential contenders in the smartphone space, most notably Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, but also including the Linux Foundation’s Meego and Samsung’s Bada. Symbian (formerly pushed by Nokia) and WebOS (formerly from HP) may in future rise or reappear as contenders, but at this stage they have both been dropped by their main proponents and open-sourced and so we will wait and see.

The other platforms all have their own pluses and minuses when it comes to security, and they seem to have learned from the experiences of the big players. However, they also all have much smaller market shares so we will not discuss them here. In particular we will be keeping a close eye on Windows Phone 7 as the relationship between Microsoft (big software) and Nokia (big hardware) may provide some interesting results for enterprise consideration.

Conclusions

security comparison of android, iOS, blackberry

 

So, which platform should you buy from a security standpoint? For most users the answer will be iOS, but for the technically experienced Android can work if they are careful. However, if a user is willing to jailbreak they can get many of Android’s benefits anyway. Blackberry may be a good choice from a security standpoint, but generally those who want a consumer device will prefer the others for non-security reasons. Windows Phone and the other platforms may be good in future, but at present there probably has not been enough exposure to make this risk a good long term bet, especially after what happened to the touchpad.

 

In short, our recommendation for each type of phone user:

Non-technical person: iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod touch)

Techie: iOS/Android

Business user: Blackberry / iOS (but check what the company standard is first)

 

Note: Others have reached similar conclusions on these points; for instance see Symantec

 

Security industry veteran Steve Hunt is CTO of Neohapsis Labs.

Read more about wireless/mobile security in CSOonline’s Wireless/Mobile Security section.

 

 

Direct Link:  http://www.csoonline.com/article/696493/android-vs-ios-vs-blackberry-which-is-the-most-secure-holiday-gift-?source=ctwartcso

Dec 192011
 

 

U.S. Backs Apple In Patent Ruling That Hits Google
The New York Times
By NICK WINGFIELD
December 19, 2011

A federal agency ruled on Monday that a set of important features commonly found in smartphones are protected by an Apple patent, a decision that could force changes in how Google’s Android phones function.


The Sensation XL from HTC, on display at a store in Taipei, Taiwan.
Photo: Ashley Pon/Bloomberg News

The ruling, by the United States International Trade Commission, is one of the most significant so far in a growing array of closely watched patent battles being waged around the globe by nearly all of the major players in the mobile industry. These fights reflect the heated competition among the companies, especially as Android phones gain market share.

At the heart of the disputes are the kind of small but convenient features that would cause many people to complain if they were not in their smartphones. For example, the case decided Monday involves the technology that lets you tap your finger once on the touch screen to call a phone number that is written inside an e-mail or text message. It also involves the technology that allows you to schedule a calendar appointment, again with a single tap of the finger, for a date mentioned in an e-mail.

HTC, the defendant in the case and a Taiwan-based mobile phone maker using the Android system, said in a statement after the ruling that it would adapt its features to comply with the court’s decision. The company called them “small” parts of the user’s experience.

 The ruling was only a partial victory for Apple because the commission overruled an earlier decision in Apple’s favor in the case, involving a different, more technical patent related to how software is organized internally on mobile devices. It would have been hard for HTC to adapt its devices to avoid infringing that patent, legal experts said.

The decision could potentially affect far more phones than those made by HTC because the underlying target of the suit is Google, creator of the Android system that now powers more than half of all smartphones sold worldwide. Apple is suing several other makers of Android devices, as is Microsoft, and companies that make Android products are returning the favor in most instances through countersuits.

“It’s an important victory for Apple, but it’s just one of many battles,” said Alexander Poltorak, chief executive of the General Patent Corporation, an intellectual property strategy firm.

The ruling by the six-member commission, which can take action against unfair trade practices by companies whose products are imported into the United States, will prevent HTC from selling phones in the United States that infringe the patent starting April 19.

To take effect, President Obama’s trade representative must sign the order. He could decide to overrule the commission’s finding, though such actions are rare. It also can be appealed.

Apple has also sued HTC in federal court accusing it of patent infringement, while HTC has filed suits of its own against Apple with the trade commission and in federal court.

The patent battles reflect the intense competition in the smartphone market. In the third quarter of 2011, phones running the Android system accounted for 52.5 percent of devices sold worldwide, up from 25.3 percent in the period of 2010. Apple’s share of this market fell to 15 percent, from 16.6 percent, in the same period.

Apple’s late chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, was outspoken in saying that Google had improperly copied many of the iPhone’s innovations, telling his biographer that he was going to “destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”

After the ruling on Monday, Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, said, “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

Grace Lei, HTC’s general counsel, said in a statement that the company was happy the commission ruled against Apple on other patents involved in the case. “We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it,” Ms. Lei said.

A Google spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The growing complexity of mobile devices has greatly expanded the range of patents that can be used as weapons in the business, and their robust sales have made them a lucrative target.

Florian Mueller, an intellectual property analyst in Germany and author of a popular blog on patents estimates that the number of patent lawsuits related to the mobile business worldwide is approaching 100.

In addition to antenna designs and other traditional patents that are held by cellular companies, relative newcomers to the business, like Apple and Microsoft, are using patents that originated from computer products. Apple applied for one of the patents at issue in the HTC case — for detecting phone numbers and other forms of data — in 1996, 11 years before the iPhone was released.

“Convergence threw them all together and opened up new product opportunities,” said James E. Bessen, an economist and lecturer at the Boston University School of Law.

The HTC Corporation sold more than 12 million cellphones in the third quarter, according to Gartner. That made the company the world’s seventh-largest seller of cellphones, ahead of Motorola and just behind Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry. Its Android phones include the Droid Incredible and HTC Titan, sold by Verizon Wireless and AT&T, respectively.

HTC said it would comply with the commission’s ruling by removing a feature that currently gives users a list of options whenever they receive, say, a phone number in a message on their smartphones. The users will no longer get a menu giving them the choice to save the phone number in their contact lists, dial the number or send a text message to it. Instead, HTC said it would give them only the option of dialing the number.

United States Customs and Border Protection will determine whether HTC’s changes are sufficient to comply with the ruling.

Apple is thought to have sued HTC, along with Samsung, another maker of Android phones and tablets, rather than Google itself because those companies profit directly from the sale of Android products. Patent lawyers say a frontal assault on Google would be a tougher legal challenge because the company gives away its Android operating system to hardware makers, making money instead through advertising from Internet services on Android phones.

Oracle has sued Google directly, accusing it of patent infringement through Android. The British telecom provider BT on Monday said it also sued Google, in part over alleged patent infringements in Android.

Patent lawsuits among technology companies typically end up being settled or avoided entirely through cross-licensing deals, with the weaker party often agreeing to pay a licensing royalty on every product sold containing the technology in question. Microsoft, for example, signed licensing agreements with HTC, Samsung and other companies in which Microsoft receives an undisclosed royalty from the sale of their Android devices.

Apple appears less motivated by getting royalties from the companies it is suing, though some patent experts believe that could be posturing on its part. Mr. Jobs’s criticisms took on more urgency as Android began to gain a bigger share of the smartphone market during the last two years.

But when he expressed those criticisms to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, he said he told Eric E. Schmidt, now the executive chairman of Google and a former Apple board member, that he didn’t want money from Google.

“If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it,” Mr. Jobs told Mr. Schmidt, according to the book, “Steve Jobs.” “I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all.”

Mr. Mueller, the patent analyst, says he believes Apple is unlikely to settle with its Android rivals because it has the most of any company to lose from the rise of Android. “The Apple rhetoric from the beginning was about theft of intellectual property,” said Mr. Mueller, who has done research work for Microsoft, a Google competitor. “That’s a lot more combative.”

Google has amped up its own rhetoric as well. In early August, David Drummond, the company’s senior vice president and chief legal officer, decried “a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.”

Less than two weeks later, though, Google announced a plan to acquire the cellphone maker Motorola Mobility Holdings for $12.5 billion, a move that was viewed partly as an effort to bolster Google’s weak patent portfolio in the mobile business. That deal is still pending.

While the subject of Android was clearly an emotional issue for Mr. Jobs, there’s no evidence yet that his death in October has altered Apple’s willingness to reach a compromise with makers of Android products.

Direct Link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/technology/apple-wins-partial-victory-on-patent-claim-over-android-features.html?pagewanted=1&hp