BlackBerry's new tablet: A secure slate for business with a bit of help from Samsung and IBM

Four years after the PlayBook, BlackBerry has another go at making a tablet, this time one with with a $2,000+ price tag, hardware from Samsung and software from IBM.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

BlackBerry has revealed it is working on a secure tablet for business and government use, combining hardware from Samsung and software from IBM.

BlackBerry's Secusmart division announced the new slate at that CeBIT tradeshow in Hanover. The SecuTablet is pitched as a high-security device based on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5, and is aimed at big businesses and governments that want to use sensitive data on a tablet form factor.

The SecuTablet isn't BlackBerry's first attempt at selling tablets: its first slate, the BlackBerry Playbook, failed to make a breakthough when it went on sale back in 2011 (see below for a gallery of BlackBerry devices through the ages - from the earliest to the most recent.)

Photos: BlackBerrys through the ages

According to Bloomberg, the new tablet will cost an eye-watering €2,250 - that's around £1,600 (by way of comparison, a top of the range iPad Air 2 currently costs around £659). BlackBerry is aiming to sell 10,000 of the tablet this year.

Secusmart said other apps - such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and WhatsApp - can also be used on the device. BlackBerry said the device is currently undergoing certification by the German authorities for use at the 'official use' rating.

It said the tablet "supplements" its existing BlackBerry 10 portfolio but it is not clear what operating system the device runs. IBM has provided the secure app-wrapping technology for the tablet.

Hans-Christoph Quelle, CEO of Secusmart, said: "National and international government customers have entrusted their voice and data communications with the Secusmart Security Card for years. This same technology is what secures the new SecuTablet."

It's still unclear as to how big a market there is for tablets in government or the enterprise, although tech companies are keen to sell more in business, especially as consumer interest in buying new tablets has declined (individuals are upgrading more slowly and are also showing more interest in buying big-screen phablet smartphones rather than tablets). Businesses meanwhile have struggled to find many uses for tablets outside of a few niches like sales or engineers filing in forms.

However, IBM and Apple have forged a high profile alliance to sell into business, offering Big Blue's enterprise software and big data know-how alongside Apple's hardware. Microsoft has been pushing its Surface hybrid-PC as well with some success.

And security - certainly post the Snowden leaks - is a big issue, especially for European businesses and governments which could be interested in such an expensive device. Startup Silent Circle for example is also working on a spyproof tablet to go on sale later this year.

Working with Samsung - which might appear to be an arch-rival in the device market - might raise eyebrows but it's not the first time the two have worked together and there was speculation earlier this year that Samsung might have been considering acquiring (Larry Dignan has some interesting ideas around why that might be a good idea).

And for BlackBerry, hopes for future growth lie in software rather hardware -- it has a tiny market share in smartphones now and that's unlikely to change any time soon. Instead, it's focusing more effort on the device management and security side of the business.

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