Last, but not least, BlackBerry acquires Israeli R&D center

With the acquisition of WatchDox, the device maker joins Apple, Google, Samsung, and other majors doing development in Israel

Blackberry CEO John Chen shows off some of his company's devices (Photo credit: BlackBerry)
Blackberry CEO John Chen shows off some of his company's devices (Photo credit: BlackBerry)

In a pre-Independence Day “gift” to Israel, Canadian device maker BlackBerry announced Tuesday that it was acquiring Israeli security start-up WatchDox. The deal is worth $100 million, according to industry reports.

With the acquisition, the company joins the other device technology companies with R&D centers in Israel – a list that includes all the major device makers in the world.

Once at the top of the cellphone heap, BlackBerry saw its dominance as the preferred communications device in the business world quickly shot down when the iPhone came out in 2007. The company is seeking to restore its fortunes by concentrating on value-added services for customers.

WatchDox provides security for documents, with a system that can limit access to data based on dozens of criteria. The system, which works on any device from smartphones to network servers, prevents users from opening documents unless they have the right credentials – including login name, location, IP address, operating system, device, date the document is being accessed. The system scrambles document data using a top encryption scheme and keeps it scrambled until the user can prove they have the rights to access it.

WatchDox’s security settings “travel” with shared files, giving organizations full visibility and control over how files are edited, copied, printed or forwarded. The system also allows end users to revoke access or delete files remotely, enables secure mobile productivity for repositories both in the cloud and on premises, and gives administrators the ability to lock or remove access to files compromised in a data breach.

WatchDox, said CEO Moti Rafalin, will remain active, serving its current non-BlackBerry customers – but will now become the basis of an Israeli research and development center for its new owners. With the opening of that center, every major – and a number of minor – smartphone technology company in the world now has an R&D center in Israel.

Apple, Google, and Samsung all have multiple R&D centers in Israel. Nokia has a center in Israel as well – which is set to get even bigger in the near future, if, as planned, the Finnish firm acquires Alcatel-Lucent, which has a substantial operation in Israel as well. Other communications tech firms with Israeli operations or who are heavy users of Israeli tech include AT&T, Huawei, ZTE, and Verizon

BlackBerry’s acquisition of WatchDox follows last year’s purchase of Secusmart, a security voice and data encryption, and is the latest demonstration of the company’s commitment to being the first name in enterprise mobile security, said John Chen, BlackBerry Executive Chairman and CEO.

“BlackBerry is constantly expanding the potential of data security so that it enables more collaboration and sharing rather than creating limitations. This acquisition represents another key step forward as we transition BlackBerry into the premier platform for secure mobile communications software and applications, supporting all devices and operating systems. Together with last year’s Secusmart acquisition, Samsung partnership, our own internal development efforts, and now the acquisition of WatchDox, we now have capabilities to secure communications end-to-end from voice, text, messaging, data and now enterprise file-sync-and share,” he said.

“WatchDox and BlackBerry share a mission to deliver superior productivity, ultimate security, and effective communications to the most demanding enterprises around the world, and together we can deliver the industry’s most complete portfolio of user-centric secure productivity applications,” said WatchDox CEO Rafalin. “I’m also extremely excited that the acquisition of WatchDox will form the heart of a new BlackBerry R&D center in Israel. This news will make a significant impact for our company as we realize our vision of making files secure and users productive everywhere files are, everywhere files go, and on every device.”

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