Mobility

Why can't President Obama keep his Blackberry?

President Obama wants to to keep in touch with people in a manner he's accustomed to. Can a technological powerhouse like the United States government figure out how to make it so? Let's find out.

I'm sure all of us are excited that our new president is a card-carrying techie. According to every source I've read, President Obama is the first ever (geeks can, and now, do rule). My first inkling of this came earlier this month when reporters kept asking (at the time) President-Elect Obama about keeping his smartphone, and he responded, "I'm still clinging to my BlackBerry." I didn't quite understand the line of questions, but I'm with you Mr. President (image courtesy of CNN).

Apparently, all sorts of regulations and security concerns were going to force President Obama to relinquish his Blackberry. I realize that being the president involves special circumstances, but come on. With all the technical horsepower in the federal government, they should be able to make this happen.

Buzz on the Internet

It appears there's a solution in the making, according to the buzz on the tech forums. President Obama has prevailed, and in typical Hollywood fashion, everyone is trying to get the scoop as to what President Obama will be using.

Engadget offers an opinion of what's what. In the article "Dear Mainstream Media: Obama's New Phone Might Not Be a BlackBerry, Might Not Be a Phone, and He Might Not Be Getting It," Joshua Topolsky quotes an Atlantic article by Marc Ambinder, who stated:

"With few exceptions, government Blackberries aren't designed for encryption that protects messages above the "SECRET" status, so it's not clear whether Obama is getting something new and special."

Something new and special

The "something new and special" that has everyone curious is apparently the Sectera Edge by General Dynamics. Quite simply, the Sectera Edge is the Panasonic Toughbook of smart phones.

CNN feels that it's the only logical choice. To that end, Erica Ogg of CNET News posted a video by CNN that describes the Sectera Edge, and I must say, it's a really cool device. The phone layout is shown in the following image (courtesy of General Dynamics):

History behind the Sectera Edge

The Sectera Edge was specifically designed and built for the US government. The 18-million dollar contract was managed by NSA and was part of a DoD project called SME-PED, which means the device meets most federal security requirements.

Runs on Windows

What may surprise many of you is that the Sectera Edge runs on secure Windows CE. I was surprised; still Windows CE is certified for Top Secret voice communications, Secret e-mail, and Secret Web sites. The device has three interchangeable modules allowing it to use GSM, CDMA, or Wi-Fi. The cost is $3,350 US. The Sectera Edge and its accessories seem to have the government offset factored in because a lighter plug power adapter costs $100 US.

Final thoughts

The jury is still out, but we'll eventually learn what device President Obama is using. I for one am glad that it was doable. The fact that the President of the United States wants to keep in contact with his constituents personally seems like a good thing.

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