For Research In Motion (nasdaq: RIMM - news - people ), the news means four years of free marketing from the most famous man in America. No wonder, then, that RIM rival Microsoft (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) spent Thursday talking up its BlackBerry killer, a super-secure, $3,500 smartphone called the Sectera Edge.
The Edge itself is far from a secret. On the market since March 2008, it is currently in use everywhere from the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency to Air Force bases to wherever General David Petraeus happens to be at the moment. It is the only type of personal digital assistant that can be used in the kinds of secure facilities that abound in the government and military. As Randy Siegel, Microsoft's enterprise mobility strategist, points out, the Edge is "the only device blessed by the National Security Agency."
All of which means that Obama is likely to use one for at least some of his personal and professional communications, despite the recent approval of his BlackBerry, Microsoft suggests.
It is this possible Obama connection that has Microsoft excited. While defense contractor General Dynamics (nyse: GD - news - people ) designed the Edge, Microsoft supplies the software, in the form of its Windows CE operating system. (CE, in turn, is the "kernel" upon which Windows Mobile is based.) The inclusion of CE is a win in itself. As Siegel notes, "[General Dynamics] picked our platform over others, for its security and ease of use."
Who can blame Microsoft for coveting some of the Obama/BlackBerry buzz? The Edge is clearly a cool device. It secures e-mail and Web browsing, as well as voice communications, using Internet protocol encryption technology and NSA-certified cryptography. A "dual bootable" feature allows a user to chat in a regular manner to a civilian then segue into a secure conversation--at the press of a button. The device will work in the same secure manner on any mobile network, according to Siegel.
Siegel says a run-of-the-mill BlackBerry, in contrast, is built to a much lower standard of security, much like regular Windows Mobile phones. It's a difference he likens to the gulf between a Chevrolet Malibu and a Cadillac. (A BlackBerry is still better than the Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) iPhone, notes Siegel, which he says isn't constructed with the same precautions.)
Obama's BlackBerry appears to be in a category by itself. White House staff said Thursday that "enhanced" security features had been added to the president's device.
Could RIM catch up to Microsoft in the super-secure smartphone category? Siegel plays down the possibility, noting that the government might not trust a Canadian firm with such sensitive information. (RIM routes most BlackBerry e-mail through a network operation center located in Canada.) Siegel also points to the U.S. government's high usage of Microsoft products (a greater than 90% penetration rate) and the limited market for such devices as other hurdles for RIM.
In short, Microsoft would like a little attention and respect, and a new product could help. Siegel says Microsoft is considering bringing out a "government edition" of Windows Mobile that would offer extra layers of security to people in say, finance and the pharmaceutical industry. The Edge project is helping Microsoft fine-tune this idea, Siegel says.
First, of course, Obama needs to use the device. Microsoft is optimistic that he will. "We have a whole group working with the Executive Office of the President," says Siegel. "We've had various conversations with the right people about this. Everyone would like him to use the device that everyone agrees is most secure."