SAN FRANCISCO - Motorola is taking on Research In Motion, the maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphone, with its new Droid Pro.
Motorola announced the new Google Android smartphone at a press event here Tuesday on the eve of the 2010 CTIA Enterprise & Applications tradeshow. Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha called the phone, which sports a 3.1-inch touch screen display and a QWERTY keypad, the first Android phone designed specifically for business users.
The company has added several features to the Droid Pro, which could make it a strong BlackBerry competitor. BlackBerry is still the No. 1 smartphone used by large corporate customers. The most important features Motorola has added allow IT managers to actually manage the phones and they also allow these IT professionals to secure the devices and protect data from leaking out of the company via stolen or lost devices.
Until recently, corporate IT departments have been reluctant to support Android devices because they lack key security features, such as encryption and remote management. But as more employees use their own phones for work, IT departments are faced with the dilemma of managing and securing these devices.
The Droid Pro aims to address this issue. One of the key features it offers is the ability to remotely wipe the device of its contents if it's lost or stolen. Remote device wiping isn't entirely new to the Android platform. Verizon recently partnered with Good Technology to deliver remote wipe on the Motorola Droid 2, Droid X, and LG Ally, but the Android platform as a whole has no firm standards for enterprise use. That's been one of the biggest hurdles for the OS up to this point.
What is different on the Droid Pro is the ability to remotely wipe the memory card, as well.
In addition to the remote wipe features, Motorola also plans to add device encryption in the first quarter of 2011. What this means is that the Droid Pro will encrypt all data on the phone, so that if it is lost or stolen and someone hacks the security password to the device, the contents on the device are still unreadable. This device encryption is a key requirement for enterprise IT organizations.
RIM also offers device encryption. But in addition to this encryption, RIM also adds another level of security by encrypting data again as it is sent over network. this means that traffic that is intercepted en route to its destination has another level of encryption so that it is unreadable without a security key. This added layer of security is one reason that the U.S. government and other highly secure enterprise customers use BlackBerry devices and subscribe to its Enterprise server products.
Motorola still doesn't address the transport encryption that RIM offers, but if companies want this added protection, they can use third party software from companies, such as Good Technology, which can replicate some of these features.
Another important feature that has been added to the Droid Pro is support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync technology. This allows corporate users to get their work e-mail pushed to their phones. RIM's push technology has made e-mail its killer application for most corporate users. But with ActiveSync, the Motorola Droid Pro and other devices using the technology, can get the same type of e-mail service as people using a BlackBerry.
Active Sync is offered on some other Android phones, but it isn't offered on every device.
Other smartphone platforms, such as Apple's iPhone, have also been adding these security features and ActiveSync e-mail to devices in order to compete against RIM. With over 50 percent market share inside large corporations, the enterprise is RIM's market to lose. But as Android phone makers, such as Motorola, and third party software developers, such as Good, work to replicate RIM's security and management features on other devices, the corporate smartphone king could find itself vulnerable to competitors.