If security were the chief concern in choosing a tablet for both personal and professional use, Research In Motion's foray into the tablet market might be a bigger seller, and the company might not be on its deathbed.
The company's BlackBerry PlayBook is the only device among three top tablets that gives users a good, safe division between their work and personal computing, a recent technology audit concluded.
The report by Context Information Security faulted the PlayBook, as well as the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, for default settings that don't automatically encrypt backups, and for not offering complementary and compatible tools for IT teams to manage a large number of devices at the business level.
The report also praised all three tablets for their support of Exchange ActiveSync, a feature that allows crucial security settings to be managed from a central server running Microsoft software. But the study noted important differences among the devices that may make some tablets more appropriate for dual use in both the home and the office.
Context found the PlayBook to be the most work-ready personal tablet of the three, due to its Bridge application's excellent support of barriers between work and personal profiles. Despite that security advantage, RIM only managed to ship 130,000 tablets last quarter.
By contrast, Apple's wildly popular iPad sold more than 17 million units last quarter. Context found the iPad to be the second-most-secure device, citing its "robust data protection and damage limitation facilities," but said on its news page that the device was still vulnerable to jailbreak attacks and "ineffective disk encryption unless a strong passcode policy is applied."
Since iTunes' default mode is not to encrypt backup data, it's not ideal for storing sensitive information, the report said.
Context found the Galaxy Tab's security features to be the least work-play ready, with weak disk-encryption support.
The Galaxy Tab's lack of tools tailored to enterprise use makes it "very difficult to manage more than a small number of Galaxy Tabs in an enterprise environment," a point Apple also falls short on.
The report criticized the Galaxy Tab's encryption as well. Even with encryption enabled, the report found that Samsung's device still "allows badly-written apps to store sensitive information on the unencrypted SD card."
Good security is key as the bring-your-own-device trend grows in popularity among companies and their employees. The practice allows professionals to work from almost anywhere and easily move between their personal and professional lives.
"The device format is perfect for social networking and creating and sharing documents, presentations and other content on-the-fly," said Jonathan Roach, the author of the report and a principal consultant at London-based Context.
Despite Roach's recognition of tablets' growing roles in our daily lives, he believes the industry has a way to go before tablets are truly secure for use both at home and at work.
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