Samsung is understood to be close to signing a deal with the FBI to provide Galaxy devices, in a move that could be a big blow to BlackBerry. Photo: Reuters
Samsung Electronics is close to signing a deal to sell its popular line of Galaxy devices to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, sources familiar with the situation said on Friday.
The deal would be a boost for Samsung, which is increasingly seeking to cater to the needs of government agencies, a niche long dominated by Canadian smartphone-maker BlackBerry.
The FBI, with more than 35,000 employees, at present uses mainly BlackBerry devices. It is unclear whether the agency plans to replace all BlackBerry equipment with Galaxy models or whether it will use hardware from both companies.
A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on the matter, saying that the selection of its new smartphones is part of an active acquisition process and any current discussions are proprietary to the government.
The imminent deal was initially reported by the Wall Street Journal late on Thursday. The WSJ also said Samsung is close to signing a smaller order for its devices with the US Navy, citing people familiar with the matter.
Representatives of BlackBerry and Samsung declined to comment. BlackBerry emphasised, however, that it regards its operating system as the best in the market in terms of security features.
"The security of mobile devices is more important now than it has ever been before," BlackBerry's chief legal officer, Steve Zipperstein, said in an interview. "It is fair to ask why in this context anyone would consider moving from the gold standard in security, which is the BlackBerry platform."
In May, the US Pentagon cleared Samsung's Android mobile devices and a new line of BlackBerry devices powered by the BB10 operating system for use on Defence Department networks.
Samsung has been pushing hard to convince government agencies and corporate clients that its Galaxy devices, powered by Google Inc's Android operating system, can meet their stringent security needs.
The South Korean company hopes the Pentagon clearance and the imminent deal with the FBI will help boost sales to security-conscious clients including banks and law firms.
Some analysts remain sceptical about whether Android can meet all security requirements of such clients and note that the FBI itself has highlighted some vulnerabilities of the platform.
"The Android operating system hasn't been secured properly," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, noting that Samsung has layered technology on top of the operating system in an attempt to make its Galaxy devices safer.
"If you are going to tackle security, you kind of have to do it throughout the entire platform. It's not that Samsung doesn't want to - it is that they don't own the operating system, so they cannot," said Mr Enderle. "If you're going to sell into government, you have to be able to provide a secure solution and Android isn't it yet."
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