A Business Technology Place

Saying Goodbye to BlackBerry Classic Keyboard!

BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Ralph Pini announced in a blog this week the decision to stop making the BlackBerry Classic. Pini writes that “sometimes it can be very tough to let go” but that “we will no longer manufacture BlackBerry classic.”BB Classic

It’s been so long since I’ve seen a BlackBerry in service that I was surprised they were still making the classic model. It’s no secret that BlackBerry hardware sales continue to fall and the company is desperately trying to reinvent itself. Just what would take to recapture the magic that a BlackBerry device once held in the business world?

The physical keyboard on the face of the device and track ball created a loyal following of addicts. It changed the way we both read and composed email. I don’t have any statistics to prove this but it sure seemed like BB users made less spelling mistakes with the classic BB keyboard. Amazingly guys with big fingers made it work too! I started composing email messages with a phone number in the footer so that someone reading on a BB could just scroll over the number for an instant phone dial.  The device was good at messaging and security. No frills. No Angry Birds. All business.

But take heart die-hards. Pini reminds us that “For now, if the Classic is still your device of choice, please check with your carriers for device availability or purchase Classic unlocked online. “ If you find a supply of them you may want to buy more than one.

Onward and upward!

Smartphone passwords and privacy

How would you rule in this case?

An employee is provided a smartphone and cellular service by their employer. The employee leaves the company and returns the device. Then the employee is brought under investigation for by the SEC for insider trading activities. The SEC requests the password for the phone in an effort to build evidence for their case.

Is the employee required to surrender their passcode so that access can be granted to the smartphone?

The result may not surprise you but the reason will.

A US District Court ruled that that the employee was not required to surrender their password in SEC V. Huang as this could violate their Fifth Amendment right to privacy.

In a court response it stated that,

“Since the passcodes to Defendants’ work-issued smartphones are not corporate records, the act of producing their personal passcodes is testimonial in nature and Defendants properly invoke their fifth Amendment privilege. Additionally, the foregone conclusion doctrine does not apply as the SEC cannot show with “reasonable particularity” the existence or location of the documents it seeks. Accordingly, the SEC’s motion to compel the passcodes is denied. “

The case revealed that Capital One, the employer, did have policies stating that the company owned the device issued as well as corporate documents stored on the device. As you would expect, Capital One also required employees to use a passcode and by best practice the code should be private and not written down anywhere. Hence the court ruling that the passcode itself was not a corporate record.

The court also stated that,

“Each party argues based on established legal precedent m non-smartphone contexts involving the interplay between corporate records and encrypted information on computers. As we find the personal thought process defining a smartphone passcode not shared with an employer is testimonial, we deny the SEC’s motion to compel. “

I bet you’ve never considered making your password part of your “personal thought process”!

How far could this reach?

Could this apply to computer and laptop passwords? Would an employee be able withhold their password from an employer if they were not under investigation for criminal activity?

If the rationale of this decision carried forward then I would think it could be far reaching.  Employers typically don’t assert ownership of the password or require they be stored where they are accessible. Hence they would be considered something personal.

If a Company wants maintain complete control and ownership of equipment issued to employees they should consider the following policies:

  1. Create a policy that issues passwords to be used by employees on company owned equipment.
  2. Designate a required storage area for passcodes.
  3. Equip phones with software that allows a remote wipe of the device if the employee leaves.

Photo Credit: binaryCoco via creative commons

 

Crystal Ball – The next business phone system

One of my first job assignments as a cooperative education student (Co-op) during college was to learn the local Siemens business phone system. The central phone unit was in an enormous cabinet in the basement of the building. This past weekend I worked with a team at my current job to decommission a Fujitsu PBX that started service in the same time era as my Co-op job. It was also the biggest piece of equipment we had in the computer room.Fujitsu PBX

But we didn’t decommission the Fujitsu system because of its age. The unit was still working and providing service. The primary driver to replace the system was cost. The support contract for the old equipment was expensive and newer Voice-over-IP (VoIP) systems offer additional savings by reducing long distance costs. I certainly appreciate all the modern features on the VoIP system, but that was not the primary driver for the change.

After the implementation experience, I had time to reflect on what I think will be the future of business phone systems.

 

Wireless

I observed that many office dwellers are already just setting their desk phones to forward to their cell phones. People are growing accustomed to have a single phone for their voice communication needs and they like it with them and not tied to a desk. So I don’t see the next generation of a business phone system requiring wires, punch blocks, and ethernet switches in the building. Rather I see a desk set that is wireless and talks to a local PBX through wifi.

Power and Portability

The phone sets we installed last weekend draw power from a POE ethernet switch. I see the future phone drawing power from a desktop surface device, not a cable. The phone unit will have a battery and be portable around the office. Hopefully this doesn’t lead to more lost phones and cracked screens.  🙂

Cloud/Cellular

The central PBX in the data center may be replaced with a cellular solution from a provider. For those willing to have their phone service on a subscription and as a tie-in with cloud based data center services, a cellular option will exist for primary business phones. This could appeal to both small businesses and large. Desk phone units could either be cellular or use a wifi connection to a local device at the facility that negotiates the cellular signal with the provider.

The bottom-line

I see the future of business phone communications systems with less wires, more air based communication, less on-premise equipment, and more portability.

Now, I need to work on decommissioning all those old fashion FAX machines. My future dream can’t exist with FAX machines and modems.

Onward and upward!

An open letter to wireless phone providers

Dear Wireless Phone Provider,

I’ve been a customer of yours for many years.  Month after month I pay a monthly installment to you in exchange for a service that I value and regularly use.  I’ve recently added a family member and at some point will add another one.  I have no complaints about the service you’ve provided to me.  I have service when I need it and wherever I go.  But there are a few things that bother me that you should know about.  Our relationship is good, but here’s how it could be better:

  • Don’t make me sign a two year contract if I need to adjust to my terms of service with you. Sometimes family circumstances change or my needs may change.  I should be able to choose from your diverse service offering without being chained to a commitment.  Especially since I’ve already been your customer for more than five years.  Shouldn’t you earn my continued business by providing a valued service?
  • Offer your best terms of service to those customers who have been the most loyal and not those that are not even customers.  Does it seem backwards to you that the terms of service to your most loyal customers are not the best you have to offer? How do you encourage loyalty and retention?
  • Find ways to make data plans and voice plans part of a packaged unit that are affordable for families.  Not everyone has access to a Corporate provided Blackberry at some bloated data and voice rate.  Data to a mobile device is becoming more relevant in society everyday.  New devices and software programs are being introduced to the mobile environment every week.  Take advantage of this and make that service affordable to the masses.

These ideas just seem to be common sense to me. You’ll certainly earn the respect of consumers and increase your reputation if you made some of these changes.   I think it’s a safe bet to think that customer loyalty and retention would increase and as a result profits as well.

Sincerely,

Your customer