Fujitsu has added data encryption to its Stylistic Q550 slate PC, creating what the company believes is the first tablet computer suitable for secure use for government and public sector use.

The Q550, a 10.1 inch Intel Atom-based tablet based around Windows 7, became available in April of this year and was designed for organisations looking for remote policy enforcement of data security and authentication.

The company has now announced a partnership with UK outfit Becrypt that will see the latter’s CESG Impact Level 3-accredited Disk Protect Baseline disk encryption pre-loaded on the touchscreen-friendly version of the Q550.

The software imposes the same user interface on Fujitsu’s tablet that it would when used on a laptop; the user cannot gain access to the device until he or she has authenticated before the operating system boots.

The application is simple – data protection. Government and public sector departments have trudged off to the Information Commissioner’s Office often enough in recent years thanks to lost USB keys and stolen laptops to know that adding tablets to this mix won’t go down well. At most levels of government, encryption is now mandated for all devices.

“We recognise the dilemma faced by the public sector which is attracted to the benefits promised by tablets, including a more mobile and flexible workforce, but which is equally concerned about inadequate data security offered by the majority of tablets,” said Fujitsu’s UK technology group executive director,  Michael Keegan.

The strength of the Q550 is that it extends a known environment, Windows 7, a big plus for some IT departments. The flaw could be that what IT departments want is no longer the biggest factor driving tablet uptake; there is ample evidence that users are more interested in iPad and Android tablets than the current crop of Windows ‘slates’ and those opinions increasingly count.

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Fujitsu said it was in discussion with 20 customers about the Q550, three quarters of which were in the public sector, so demand is clearly there.

“A large number of these are already trialling evaluation units in simulated mobile computing working environments, and their feedback on the integration capability of the Becrypt disk encryption software with STYLISTIC Q550 has been very positive,” said Keegan.