Challenging Conventional Wisdom
Since we announced the launch of our new high-end mobile phone, Blackphone, Jon, Phil and I have been hearing this statement a lot – “Are you guys crazy?” I have spoken to CEOs of large phone makers, security app developers, tech companies and some heavy-hitting industry folks who all seem quite curious as to why we would take on “The Big Guys” by partnering with Geeksphone to produce our own Privacy and Security-centered Smartphone.
Everyone likes to point out that this is not the way it works and we don’t seem to understand the “hierarchy” here. “Its not how things are done” is a common statement we hear. Samsung, Apple, HTC, Nokia, LG, etc. ship hundreds of millions of smartphones and “own” this particular playground. This is changing rapidly –we see the need for an entirely new ecosystem. When we announce our other partners on this project – it will become much clearer as to why we believe we can take on “the big dogs” and provide the world with a more secure platform.
We also hear “What makes you think you can challenge Blackberry or Samsung KNOX?” Well, partly due to the massive changing landscape of mobile manufacturing, mobile security trends and partly due to some very cool innovation from our Blackphone Team. It is impossible for these giant phone makers to sell hundreds-of-millions of phones and care about privacy.
As Phil Zimmermann pointed out to a reporter last week….
Just as PCs are going the way of the Dinosaur, so too is the current model of smartphone saturation. Just as PCs came loaded with Bloatware and software contracts that forced us to have a terrible technology experience –the same has happened today with the smartphone.
Go buy a smartphone in a store today, there are at least 10 apps preloaded from the carrier or manufacturer as well as other third parties. You cannot stop this “bloatware” from sucking up your contact list or from sending usage, browsing, app and personal data to all of these stakeholders.
Today’s “prosumer” has little to no control over the river of personal data being sucked up hourly in exchange for these “free services”, let alone have some small protection against the massive surveillance of the 72 NSA-like agencies in the world. Today’s consumer has become the host to a hundred data-parasites on every smartphone and they have no control, no say, and no other option. Until now…
Contrary to a lot of the recent press, Blackphone is not “NSA Proof”. There is no such thing as a 100% secure smartphone. Blackphone is much, much more secure than normal phones, but it also allow users to work, play and interact like normal. Users control who sees what data, how much, where and when. A different model all-together.
Subverting The Dominant Paradigm
Blackphone is an innovative new ecosystem. The idea of creating an entirely new ecosystem is not new. Microsoft had its run with Windows, Skype, and Bing. They created an entire ecosystem behind the hardware and software, but failed to innovate ahead of the curve. Blackberry had its run with the phones, BEZ servers and BBM messaging. They are now dying a thousand little deaths because they did not innovate quickly enough. Google, Apple, Samsung and others have created dominant ecosystems that tie in software, hardware, wearables, media, music and services. They rapidly innovated new platforms and models that left Microsoft, Blackberry, Nokia, HTC and others behind quickly. It’s been an amazing run for them, but this model too is dwindling. Fast movers like Xiaomi are killing them. Innovation, security and privacy demands are already putting cracks in this windshield. The fuel that feeds their ecosystem machine is customer data… Your data. It is pure gold to them.
It’s time for a different approach, a different type of ecosystem. One built upon user control, security and privacy. Blackphone is that new ecosystem.
At Silent Circle, our secure communications products, calling plans and services are used by consumers from over 100 countries, Fortune 500 companies, and international businesses of all sizes and by Government customers from many, many countries. Because we don’t collect, hold, or use customer data –it’s virtually impossible to run our business the “Customer Analytics Way”. Yet, we also realized a secure communications service could only be as good as the platform it’s delivered on. We looked all over the world for a partner who had the same ideals, the same “crazy” nature, and one that had shipped smartphones to consumers without relying on customer data as the main profit center. There was only one like this in the world –Geeksphone out of Spain. A perfect innovative partner.
We realized we had to create and deliver an entirely new international ecosystem in order to break the chains of the existing platforms where monetization of customer data is priority number one.
Enterprise is Being Suffocated
Our enterprise customers are drowning in BYOD and theft of IP issues. They are trying to deal with a multitude of devices from 30+ phone makers. CIOs and IT staff are inundated with 100+ mobile security/control solutions that each only covers one small part of their overall problem. They are floundering under the pile of over 110 MDM and MAM solutions that are quickly becoming freeware. They have thousands of employees bringing in personal smartphones made by giant companies who are in the business of sucking out every drop of data of those who buy their phones. The very nature of this model, this ecosystem, is counter to the mission of IT.
Today’s Enterprise battlefield has become a free-for-all. Government entities, hackers, business competitors and foreign multinationals are all trying to get a company’s data –anyway they can. Industrial espionage is the new “Gold Market”. The only way less-innovative countries can compete in today’s business world is to focus their resources to steal the innovation and IP from those industries that exist in economic powerhouses. If Enterprise wants a more secure internal ecosystem –they have to piece meal products/services/hardware together. So, we are building Blackphone to be the 95% solution for Enterprise, right out of the box.
The Rise of a New Ecosystem
In 2013 we quietly went about creating secure device-to-device encrypted products and services that cover phone calls, texting, sending large files, video chats, conference calling, contacts and secure-to-server VOIP calling plans. Our products and services are device and OS agnostic (IOS/Android), but they are being put on smartphones and tablets whose ecosystem is geared toward “maximum collection of customer data”. Millions of Freemium apps that do cool things are free because they are sucking up your personal and usage data. Your data is being sold to advertisers as well as thousands of other companies to use as they wish on a daily basis.
The only way we saw to deliver true privacy and security to customers was to build our own smartphone and more secure ecosystem. One that allows the user to control what level of privacy they want and to allow users to communicate securely by default. To free consumers and enterprise from being blackmailed into data plans or subjected to “bloatware” without having a say in it.
We don’t want, nor care to sell tens-of-millions of phones. We are not going to mass-produce cheap smartphones to sell them at cost, just to make our money by monetizing your data or forcing you into some burdensome data plan. We have built a new model, a new ecosystem, a new way of delivering privacy, security and control for those who need and care about it.
Are we crazy, stupid, or are we just biting at the ankles of the giants? All three most likely. Do we expect everything to go smoothly? Of course not. Will we make mistakes? Count on it. Do we expect to compete with Samsung KNOX, Blackberry, HTC and others? Absolutely! Later in the year we are going to take on business productivity market segments with what we think is another game-changing facet of the new ecosystem.
We are not alone in this new era of innovation. We have assembled a team of audacious new companies whose tools and services enable a more private smart phone user experience on the Blackphone. These companion services will insure a robust user experience that enables the users of our new smartphone to be both more productive and private than the alternatives.
Our goal with Blackphone is a very simple one: execute on delivering our high-end smartphone (and coming family of devices) built from the ground up upon the foundation of user-control, privacy and security –all fed from our own ecosystem that allows the user to choose the level of privacy they want. As with all industries, innovation changes the existing model as a ripple at first, but eventually forces the “big dogs” to adapt or die. Innovation is the engine that alters landscapes. Massive monetization of user data is the current model. Blackphone is about to disrupt that. It’s time for a change, it’s time for Blackphone on February 24, 2014.