Blackberry’s new Passport
The days of BlackBerry Messenger, roller balls, and physical keyboards seem a long time ago now. The once revolutionary BlackBerry, a must-have utility tool for businesses and individuals alike, became eclipsed by competitors such as Samsung and Apple, who each have claimed substantial market share in the mobile world.
At simultaneous launch events in Toronto, Dubai, and London on Wednesday, September 24, BlackBerry took strides towards reclaiming relevancy in the mobile phone world with the unveiling of its BlackBerry Passport. BlackBerry said its new phone was named this way not only for its unusual square shape, but also to represent a “universal symbol of mobility.” With its 4.5 inch square shaped display and a return to BlackBerry’s signature hardware keyboard, the phone is indeed distinguished from its competitors.
Once known as the ultimate enterprise tool, the new BlackBerry device is aimed in particular at the business world. New feature BlackBerry Blend allows users to connect the Passport with non-BlackBerry devices, allowing them to conduct business on the go and follow up with the same project later on a PC or tablet. BlackBerry has also taken steps to close the gap on its established competitors by forging a deal with Amazon that will give users access to 1000s of Android apps. Features like voice assistant, BlackBerry Hub, and a far superior battery life (provides up to 30 hours of mixed use) also figure to aid in the company’s return to relevancy.
“The BlackBerry Passport was created to drive productivity and to break through the sea of rectangular-screen, all-touch devices, said John Chen, CEO and chairman of BlackBerry.
But while BlackBerry loyalists may relish the revamped device, Wall Street’s sentiments seem much more cautious, if not skeptical. The amount of people who never successfully adapted to touch screen typing is sizeable, and investors admit the keyboard’s comeback could resonate with people.
Analysts from the likes of Citi and Deutsche Bank worry about issues like the compatibility of Android Apps on the unconventional square screen and the BlackBerry Passport’s competitiveness at a $599 price point without contract, a level just $50 cheaper than the newly released iPhone 6.
While BlackBerry stock has reversed its abysmal 2013 decline and risen by 37% in 2014, critics on and off Wall Street are not overly faithful that the Passport is BlackBerry’s claim back to fame. However, with the promise of security in a vulnerable online world, a physical keyboard, and unparalleled battery life, the Passport could make some noise in the mobile sector.
The Bash bug threat
Vulnerable operating systems have been hot topics amongst not just the tech industry, but all business sectors this year.
The latest worry is a viral bug said to be even worse than Heartbleed, dubbed Shellshock. The flaw was detected in Bash, a software component of many Linux systems and Apple’s Mac operating system. According to security experts, Bash is the software used to control the command prompt on many Unix computers, allowing hackers to exploit the bug and take control of a targeted system. The bug in the software has gone undetected for 22 years, meaning that Bash has been widely used in these operating systems and the Shellshock flaw in the software could end up affecting hundreds of millions of people and devices.
The bug has been given a top-rating of 10 on the vulnerability scale by Tod Beardsley, an engineering manager at cybersecurity firm Rapid7. Compounding the problem is that the bug has been given a rating of “low” on the complexity scale, meaning that once hackers catch wind of the bug, it is easy for them to take capitalize on it and remotely control entire operating systems. The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) warned that Shellshock “allows unauthorized disclosure of information; allows unauthorized modification; allows disruption of services.”
The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-Cert) has been actively encouraging system administrators to implement security patches, while Linux provider Red Hat has also released a patch, despite it being incomplete. Apple has yet to offer a patch or solution to mitigate the problem for Mac OS X.
Yet another potential pitfall for Apple, christened “Bendgate,” came to light this past week with multiple complaints from owners of the week-old iPhone 6 Plus that the device t is susceptible to bending while in a pocket.
The public outcry via social media, particularly Twitter, is still in its early stages. Testing by YouTube channel Unbox Therapy showed that the iPhone would bend with the application of significant force, proved with a video that has gone viral. Such claims contradict warranty provider SquareTrade’s reports that the phone is robust and passed all “breakability tests with flying colors.” However, the insurance company’s experiments apparently did not include testing for “bendability.”
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Apple responded by saying that only nine customers have reported a bent iPhone 6 Plus. Given the record 10 million iPhones Apple sold in the first weekend of the phone’s launch, nine would seem a number of little importance and might serve to discredit claims of the phone’s fragility.
Apple will hope this is the case, as it had other issues to address this week. The tech giant has released an apology to users who experienced problems with the iOS 8.0.1 operating systems released with iPhone 6. Some users were unable to make or receive telephone calls, while others said the fingerprint scanner feature also malfunctioned.
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