Blackphone boss attacks BlackBerry in smartphone security row

'Nowadays, the only thing sustaining them is the inertia of their remaining enterprise and government customers...'

BlackBerry's latest comeback efforts under new chief executive John Chen have included the willingness to take public potshots at rivals through the company's official blogs. But now it may have met its match.

Toby Weir-Jones, chief executive of SGP Technologies, maker of the security-focused Blackphone smartphone, has responded sharply to a BlackBerry blog post criticising the device as "inadequate for businesses".

The article, published on 14 July by BlackBerry's content strategy marketing manager, Joe McGarvey, also described the Black phone, which went on sale in late June, as only "purportedly secure".

"When it comes to protecting corporate information and end user privacy, meeting compliance requirements and expanding the productivity of your mobile workforce, the similarities we share with Blackphone end with the name," he wrote.

It only took a day for Weir-Jones to hit back with his own blog post on Medium, which pulled no punches in defending his company's first product, and criticising BlackBerry in return.

"Nowadays, the only thing sustaining them is the inertia of their remaining enterprise and government customers, but that too will eventually come to rest while we and others continue to win over those accounts," wrote Weir-Jones.

He took aim at the past willingness company – under its original name of Research In Motion – to "compromise its integrity" when pressured by governments in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India.

"That, along with the restrictive platform architecture, lack of widespread adoption by third parties, and shifting priorities among large enterprise customers, all closed the book on RIM, and the precipitous decline in its fortunes — well-documented by the press — began."

Weir-Jones then delivered a lengthy rebuttal of BlackBerry's specific criticism that Blackphone – which costs $629 and enables owners to make encrypted phone calls, send encrypted texts and browse the web anonymously – isn't fit for businesses.

As technology spats go, it's entertaining, but illustrates a wider point: BlackBerry's future is strongly tied to the quality of its security technology and the trust put in its policies by customers, as much as the qualities of individual handsets.

It's no surprise to find the company going on the offensive against new competitors like the Blackphone, but there are risks to BlackBerry's reputation too, if they come back with arguments that sow more doubt in the minds of its customers.


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