Self-confessed BlackBerry addict Barack Obama may not have to kick the thumbing habit after all, despite the concerns of a notoriously technophobic White House.
The new U.S. president was often seen hunched over the mobile e-mail device during his election campaign and even featured at No. 2 on one celebrity Web site's list of obsessive BlackBerry users.
But, like previous Oval Office incumbents, Obama had been expected to take a vow of technological celibacy following his inaugural oath on Tuesday, despite telling CNBC in an interview that security officials would have to "pry it out of my hands." He protests that a mobile device would help him stay in touch with the real world.
E-mail has long been treated with suspicion by the Secret Service because of fears it could be hacked into by foreign espionage agencies, or that sensitive information could reach the public domain via a single mis-stroke of the "send" key.
President George W. Bush was forced to give up using e-mail when he took charge, while President Bill Clinton sent just two e-mails during his administration -- one to test that the system worked and the second to veteran astronaut John Glenn before his trip into space in 1998.
There are also concerns that mobile devices such as BlackBerries, which contain built in GPS technology, could be hacked into, revealing the president's location within a few feet.
But according to reports Thursday, Obama could now be in line to receive a spy-proof alternative to his favorite toy.
Writing on his blog for the Atlantic magazine, Marc Ambinder reports that the National Security Agency has approved a $3,350 smartphone -- inevitably dubbed the "BarackBerry" -- for Obama's use.
The exclusive Sectera Edge, made by General Dynamics, is reportedly capable of encrypting top secret voice conversations and handling classified documents.
But Obama may have pushed his Secret Service handlers' technological patience far enough. Ambinder also reports that instant messaging in the White House will still be a definite no-no :(