NEW YORK: BLACKBERRY MAY HAVE GONE all-in on Android, but the firm's CEO admitted this week that the operating system isn't as secure as his company's BlackBerry 10 (BB10).
John Chen said during a Q&A at the company's Security Summit in New York that Android isn't yet on a par with BB10 from a security point of view.
"BlackBerry is still the most secure phone. Android is still lagging behind BB10 in terms of security," Chen said, just a week after the firm ditched the BlackBerry Classic handset in a move that signals the firm putting all its eggs in Google's basket.
Questions came after it was revealed that BlackBerry's BB10.3.2 software, along with BES12, has earned STIG approval from the Defence Information Systems Agency for use at the US Department of Defence.
BlackBerry hopes that Android's inferior security will change, however, and Chen explained that the firm has an internal project focusing on boosting the security credentials of Google's software.
"The goal is to make the Android security level the same as BB10. There's still a gap right now, but this gap will hopefully be gone within the next six to eight months," he said.
Chen added that the gap will be closed through a combination of BlackBerry's super-secret project and the impending release of the next version of Google's software, Android 7.0 Nougat. Or, according to Chen, "Android L".
"We need to add our code to it, but we also expect Android L to step up in terms of security," he said.
Google has been keen to big up the improved security credentials of Nougat, claiming that the upcoming release will deliver file-based encryption, Mediaserver hardening and automatic updates. Android 7.0 will also, for the first time, prevent ransomware resetting passwords and locking owners out of their device.
BlackBerry couldn't confirm when Android N will roll out to the likes of the BlackBerry Priv, but Chen said that adding the company's "special code" on top of the certified release will "take a little bit longer".
However, BlackBerry has all but confirmed that new Android-powered devices are on the way. Chen debunked talk that the firm is throwing in the towel on smartphones completely, despite having just 0.3 per cent of the global smartphone market and failing to make a comeback with the BlackBerry Priv.
Chen caused panic among journalists in attendance with the remark that "this might be the last time you'll hear me talk about devices", but he later clarified that this is because his colleague, BlackBerry general manager Ralph Pini, will reveal more details about the company's smartphone plans next week.
Chen didn't say any more than that, but chances are we'll see the so-called BlackBerry Neon, which has been tipped to arrive on shelves in August.
The Neon is rumoured to be a mid-range blower that ditches the keyboard in favour of a 5.2in Full HD touchscreen. It'll also feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 chip, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and a 2,610mAh battery.
So, while the company isn't exiting the smartphone business just yet, despite reports to the contrary following the news that the firm was ditching the BlackBerry Classic, Chen said never say never.
"When I said we're not going to produce the Classic anymore, everyone made it sound like we're getting out of the hardware business. It's not true," he said.
"Before you get out, you’ve got to provide a soft landing for your customers. We still have a lot of BlackBerry users and you can't just walk away from those customers because these are the same people we’ll sell software to."
Chen added that another possibility for the company is staying in the devices without making, er, devices.
"We can stay in the handset biz by not having to make every handset. There's lots we can license. Maybe even the name," he said. µ
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