Research In Motion’s BlackBerry 10 is now FIPS 140-2 certified, meaning that government agencies and enterprises can deploy the upcoming smartphone OS with the assurance that it meets certain benchmarks for security and encryption. (BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 also received FIPS certification.)
RIM is making a very large bet that BlackBerry 10 will revive its sagging fortunes in North America and other prime smartphone markets. In order to do so, however, it must convince businesses and consumers that BlackBerry 10 devices can compete on equal terms with Apple’s iPhone and a plethora of high-end Google Android and Windows Phone devices. The newly obtained security certification is a sizable step in that direction, considering how a sizable portion of BlackBerry’s remaining audience is government and large enterprise—had RIM failed to secure FIPS certification for BlackBerry 10, for whatever reason, it might have been disastrous.
BlackBerry 10 represents a significant revamp of the “traditional” BlackBerry user interface. In place of the latter’s grid of apps, the BlackBerry 10 home-screen includes large “Active Frames,” similar in form and functionality to Windows Phone’s tiles. Users navigate through much of the interface via swiping, as opposed to tapping buttons—similar in broad strokes to the QNX-based operating system that currently powers RIM’s PlayBook tablet.
However, analysts remain mixed about BlackBerry 10’s chances on the open market.
“We believe BB10 is likely to be DOA,” Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette wrote in his report, which was subsequently quoted by Bloomberg. “We expect the new OS to be met with a lukewarm response at best and ultimately likely to fail.”
But that same Bloomberg article also quoted Paradigm Capital analyst Gabriel Leung as saying that RIM “has significantly improved its ability to attract developers to build apps for the BB10 ecosystem, which we view as a catalyst for success.”
While RIM remains officially tight-lipped about its roadmap, it’s widely presumed that BlackBerry 10 devices will arrive on the market early in 2013. Another question is whether RIM will license BlackBerry 10 to other manufacturers. “We still believe a third ecosystem [to Apple and Google] will emerge,” Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek wrote in an October research note, “but the probability of BB10 filling the role is wholly dependent on whether RIM can convince Samsung, Huawei, and ZTE to license.”