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U.S. Department of Defense embraces Apple's iDevices into its networks

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May 19, 2013

The U.S. Department of Defense says it is embracing Apple's iDevices into its secure networks, and has announced that it's taking bold steps to provide sound information and proper analysis as it fortifies its cloud computing infrastructure, acquisition and data processes.

On May 17, the department set the stage for a three-way showdown among Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry by approving the security technical implementation guide (STIG) for iOS 6 devices, thus allowing them to be used when connecting to various DoD networks. BlackBerry passed the test earlier this month, and Samsung's KNOX hardware-software security combination is expected to gain approval soon.

For Apple and Samsung, DoD approval is important to their bottom lines, but hardly critical. BlackBerry, on the other hand, is struggling to remain relevant in what was once an enormous market for its devices, but not anymore.

BlackBerry can ill-afford the competition when attempting to sell the DoD on the advantages of its Z10 and Q10 mobile handsets.

According to Reuters, the DoD currently has 470,000 BlackBerrys, 41,000 iPhones and iPads, and a mere 8,700 Android-based devices in its arsenal.

But those numbers are relatively inconsequential, seeing as how the DoD plans to open up its own mobile store and build its own system to handle as many as eight million devices.

There's a lot of purchasing going on right now, and with Apple and Samsung as its competitors, BlackBerry's sales team will have its work cut out for itself.

In a separate but related announcement, Mark Krzysko, the DoD's deputy director for acquisition resource analysis and enterprise information, said that the Pentagon is taking bold steps in its adoption of cloud infrastructure.

"The technology, architecture framework and data management constructs the cloud can bring to us create app-like thinking that enables us to move faster and forward more data sources out," Krzysko said.

The various challenges that the DoD currently faces aren't unknown among the less-armed general public, not only figuring out how to get cloud technology and data working together, but also accomplishing the move from desktop to mobile while ensuring security.

"It's pretty much a known issue, so it gives us the opportunity to experiment and to create an organization to manage data and delivery in support of the decision-makers," Krzysko added.

We currently know of at least three major manufacturers who would love to help in the mobile-device part of Krzsko's chore but only one of them is an American company.

It will be interesting to see whether the DoD's relationship with our close neighbor Canada or its active security partnership with South Korea play a political role in the upcoming business opportunity for Apple, BlackBerry, and Samsung.

In other mobile news

Verizon Wireless says that the so-called 'second screen trend' continues to grow and enhance the way television viewers watch and interact with their favorite shows.

Overall, the second screen is a natural complement for viewers who use social media platforms and mobile apps while watching TV.

And now reality competition and award shows are encouraging the utilization of these tools as a way to keep viewers really engaged through voting.

Reality competition TV shows have embraced apps and social media as a way to drive fan interaction and loyalty to a particular contestant.

In 2012, viewers of the "The X Factor" used the Xtra Factor app’s Verizon Touch Voting to select the contestant they wanted to stay on the show, rather than having to text or call in votes.

The app also provided users with exclusive content, including backstage footage, the ability to rate performances and on-demand videos.

However, the new trend also extends beyond reality competition shows. In April, fans were able to vote for who they wanted to win the MTV Movie Awards' "Best Hero" category through Instagram or Twitter.

By typing a hashtag with the nominee’s name, fans cast their votes before and during the award show while connecting with other fans on the social media sites.

After the votes were tallied, fans were able to see Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman, from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” take home the award.

The popularity of voting through social media has created a new genre of awards geared specifically to honoring social media sites.

The Shorty Awards honor organizations and people who have created content solely for social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more.

This year, people tweeted their nominations for various categories – from “Best Small Business in Social Media” to “Best Fake Account in Social Media” – and winners were honored during a ceremony last month.

TV fans in the U.S. now have a voice to share their opinions and vote for their favorite entertainment personalities.

In other mobile news

European Union trade chief Karel De Gucht says he and his team will investigate some strong allegations that Chinese telecoms hardware makers such as Huawei and ZTE are undermining their Euro competitors.

And it's not just a matter of potential unfair competition as the United States and now even India are alleging that Huawei and ZTE could be spying on their respective governments.

The two China-based electronics companies are accused of unfairly gaining an advantage by getting state subsidies from the communist regime and then dumping cheap networking equipment on the European market.

Usually, the European Commission waits for companies to file an official complaint before launching formal inquiries. But De Gucht has been pushing hard lately to open a probe on his own authority, after facing a wall of silence from China's telecoms gear manufacturers.

It was rumoured that Sweden's Ericsson, Finland's Nokia Siemens Networks and other companies refused to moan about Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE for fear of retribution in China's lucrative mobile market.

In April, the trade commissioner struggled during a meeting to win support from EU trade ministers for his personal investigation. Swedish trade minister Ewa Bjorling, who opposed the probe, said at the time that most of Europe wasn't interested.

"Not all member states spoke out, but of those that did, a majority was for our position," she said. De Gucht then said in a statement that the EC had made the decision "in principle" to start the probe, although the commission planned to hold off until it had spoken to China.

"The European Commission has today taken a decision in principle to open an ex officio anti-dumping and an anti-subsidy investigation concerning imports of mobile telecommunications networking equipment and their essential elements from China," he said.

"This decision will not be activated for the time being to allow for negotiations towards an amicable solution with the Chinese authorities," said the statement.

The European trade watchdog wing of the EC claimed last year that it had hard evidence that both Huawei and ZTE banked state subsidies to help them undercut European companies, and then had dumped their networking gear in Europe, selling it below cost to derail its rivals.

The investigation marks the first time the commission has launched a case off its own like this. Just like the U.S. did a few months ago, India has now joined the list of countries worried about allowing the installation of telecommunication equipment from Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

The United States has also forbidden the two companies from winning contracts, citing security concerns, although there are some people that think its real concern is to protect American companies that the chinese are trying to compete against.

In other mobile news

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins just introduced the newest BlackBerry 10 device, called the Q5. Specifically designed for emerging markets, the Q5 QWERTY device will launch everywhere by mid-July if all goes as planned.

Heins made the announcement during an upbeat keynote address at BlackBerry’s annual developer conference, where about 820 people attended.

The Q5 will be available in selected markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia (including the Asia Pacific region), and Latin America, with expected availability beginning probably on July 1st.

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Running the BB10 operating system, the new device will be available in red, black, white and even pink. Apart from its small 3.1-inch touchscreen, most of the specs have yet to be revealed for the Q5, although it’s fair to imagine it will be dialed back from the Z10 and Q10 in order to hit a price point in line with the emerging market segment it’s specifically geared for.

The Q5’s big brother, the Q10, is finally hitting the U.S. next month with the first update, 10.1, to the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Heins added that the update will be rolling out to Z10 users in the United States via wireless carriers in 10 days.

“We are the original mobile-first,” Heins proudly said while speaking of BlackBerry’s sharp focus on building BlackBerry 10 for mobile devices only.

Heins also 'trumpeted' the health of the BlackBerry World digital storefront, claiming it now houses an impressive 120,000 mobile apps.

In finding a new interface for all those apps, BlackBerry announced it’s working on incorporating its QNX software into some select cars. QNX design lead Mark Rigley rolled on stage in a Bentley that had BB10 video chat embedded into the dashboard display.

Rigley fired up a video call and revealed a safety feature that disables video calling while the car is moving. BlackBerry acquired QNX Software in 2010 in an effort to try to improve its own OS as it relates to mobile apps.

During the product demo, Heins continually stressed that BlackBerry sees BB10 as a platform for many different types of connected devices.

Although the Q5 will get most of the attention of the announcements BlackBerry made today, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company seemed mostly focused on the enterprise segment, security and working into verticals like the automotive industry. The enterprise sector has always been BlackBerry's true MO and probably will always be.

The company also announced BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.1, designed for cost-effectiveness and easy upgrades, adding that BES10 systems will be upgraded for free.

Overall, BlackBerry 10 devices haven’t had much time to reshape the company’s fortunes in the U.S., at least not yet anyway. But still, the latest Comscore study on U.S. smartphone OS market share indicated that BlackBerry is still bleeding out, falling to 5.2 percent at the end of March from 6.4 percent at the end of last year.

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Source: The U.S. Department of Defense.

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