The Boeing Co. is developing a mobile phone based on the Android operating system that will compete with other manufacturers offering highly secure communication devices, company officials said April 10.
Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, told reporters in Arlington, Va., that this was probably the first time the aerospace and defense industry giant will offer a communication device designed to use cellular networks.
The company is near the end of the development cycle and getting ready to launch what he called “the Boeing phone” in late 2012, said Brian Palma, vice president of the company’s secure infrastructure group.
Competitors offering similar secure, encrypted devices are charging $15,000 to $20,000 per device and are using proprietary software and hardware, Palma said.
“We are going to drive down towards a lower price point, but … not mass-market price point,” he said referring to iPhones, BlackBerries and other consumer market smartphones.
“We believe that there is significant interest in the defense side as well as the intelligence side and in the commercial world as well,” Palma said.
Boeing sees a larger business trend where employees once went to work to take advantage of information technology because it was far superior to what they had at home. Nowadays, it is the opposite. The consumer products have outstripped the office IT, and they wonder why their work has far less robust computers and phones.
This is why an Android-based system was chosen. The users of these high-end phones want the same ability to use popular applications while knowing that their business communications are secure, Palma said. The company also sees opportunities for the phone in the emergency responder market.
The phone will “give them what they are used to seeing [on consumer market smartphones] and give them the functionality from the security perspective,” Krone added.
“We are all living off this thing,” Krone said while holding up his smartphone. “And we’re not going back. In fact the next one I have is going to be thinner, smaller and have more capability.”
Whether “the Boeing phone” will carry the company’s brand name has not been decided, Krone said. Palma also declined to reveal Boeing’s partners in the program.
April 13th, 2012
by Stew Magnuson