Finance News & Insights

Best of FinanceTech: Obama's phone turns into a car?

All the hype and gossip about President Barack Obama’s BlackBerry addiction got another twist Monday morning when the new president deadpanned to NBC “Today Show’s” Matt Lauer that his new smartphone “has everything. It can turn into a car if I have to make a quick getaway.”

The laconic, tech-savvy new president made the statement in response to Lauer’s questions about whether the phone had fingerprint recognition capability.

While not directly responding to the question about the fingerprint feature, Obama’s clearly impressed with his new smartphone — which he hadn’t actually brought with him to the “Today Show” interview — and its security capability.

The compromise negotiated between Obama and his security folks allows the world’s most powerful leader to have a handheld device — with some big limitations. (Corporate IT managers, take note: If Obama has to live by some IT security rules, your CEO can do the same.)

The smiling president described his phone as something that might belong to “Inspector Gadget. If you touched it,” he told Lauer, “it might blow up.”

Obama also hedged on questions about whether or not the new device is even a BlackBerry — his smartphone of choice during the campaign. Most analysts speculate it’s not.

The smart money on the president’s smartphone is on the Sectera Edge, made by General Dynamics and already stamped with approval by the National Security Agency (NSA). The Sectera Edge rides around in the pockets of a  number of high-ranking Federal workers who need the security it offers.

What’s the Edge offer? According to its maker:

  • Secure and non-secure wireless phone, e-mail and web browsing
  • Withstands rigors of both tactical and everyday environments (read: ruggedized)
  • Global roaming over GSM, CDMA or Wi-Fi* wireless networks (yeah, he’ll need that from time to time if he does the kind of globetrotting he’s promised)
  • Software upgradeable to VoIP
  • Exchange secure e-mail with government personnel, including S/MIME BlackBerry® users
  • IPv6 software upgradeable
  • Microsoft® Windows® Platform (that can’t be fun)
  • Wireless desktop synchronization
  • Separation of Classified and Unclassified applications
  • One-touch switching between classified and unclassified PDA functions
  • Secure wireless access to the SIPRNET and NIPRNET
  • DoD PKI enabled Common Access Card (CAC) support
  • Supports DoD 8100.2 requirements
  • Type 1 encrypted storage of classified data
  • Can be used inside closed areas with “SCIF-Friendly” feature

Obama was seen with his new phone at a recent press conference, but only its back side — not its keyboard or screen — were visible. Most folks in the know say the device is too large to be a BlackBerry. But it is strikingly similar in shape.

So who has Obama’s top secret e-mail address: Only “a handful of folks,” he told Lauer, hinting that his daughters are among that select group. What about Oprah, Lauer asked. The president demurred, declining to answer yes or no.

How about other world leaders, Lauer asked.

They can call the Oval office, the president said with a laugh.

Looks like the president may be using his device in a way that could be a good model for the modern exec: As a way to keep his personal and professional lives separate and distinct.

He protects his “company”, but stays in touch with his friends and family with a device that’s capable and safe. And he respects his IT advisors’ opinions of how to do it.

It helps that the taxpayer is probably picking up the tab for the $3,350 device (it’s only $3,150 with a one-year warranty.) Wonder if  taxpayers ponied up for the $170 carrying case or $96 for an extra battery?

Now if this new phone can really turn into a car, that would make it a big bargain.

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