One fairly universal consensus coming out of BlackBerry’s announcements last week – new OS, new/old name, two new handsets – is that its fate is closely tied to the ability to exploit its residual strength in the enterprise.
A lot of unfortunate things have happened to the company during the past few years. If not, it wouldn’t have gone from having the nickname “crackberry” to hanging on by the skin of its teeth. One thing, however, has broken in its favor: The emergence of BYOD provides it with a workable path to survival.
One of the features on the new operating system is BlackBerry Balance, which provides users with partitioned work and consumer identities. Juniper Research late last week did a nice job of describing the feature and why it’s important.
This week, BlackBerry has taken another step. BYTE and other sites report that the company has released Secure Work Space for iOS and Android. On one level, it’s clever to use the competitors’ online app stores to try to gain market share. On a more serious note, the story says that a “solution integrated into BES 10” plays to BlackBerry’s strength:
Applications like Divide for iOS and Android already offer the ability to separate the work apps from those for personal use. The advantage to BlackBerry's solution is that it's administered through BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which many companies already have in place, making it easier to integrate iPhone and Android devices. Furthermore, BlackBerry still has a strong reputation for its security in the corporate world.
The leveraging of BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES) for BlackBerry 10 is a natural. Organizations understand that they need to come to grips with BYOD, and the familiar BES is a great step if only to raise the comfort level of IT departments. It’s not as simple as it seems, however: BES must be upgraded (to BES 10, naturally) to work with the new Z10 and Q10 phones. Clint Boulton has the details at The Wall Street Journal. The upgrade is free for the rest of the year, but the use of existing apps on the new devices will require some coding work, Boulton writes.
While using BES to control BYOD and make BlackBerry more attractive is sensible, IT must look very carefully to see how much of this glitter really is gold, however. The user-facing and IT elements are fairly easy to judge: Do end users feel comfortable with the way BlackBerry has separated things? Are the tools rich enough for CIOs and their staffs? Beyond that, enterprises must be certain this segregation – call it the Great Wall of BlackBerry – can’t easily be penetrated by malware. In other words, significant usability, management and security questions must be answered.
But it’s a good start, and the company has gotten good news. According to BGR, CIBC analyst Todd Coupland reports that half of Canadian preregistrations are from people who are not now BlackBerry users. The report on Coupland’s finding is worded in a confusing manner, but apparently the early registrations are for the Z10 handset, which is considered the sexier of the two introduced. Wrote BGR:
A surprise, indeed. If Coupland’s checks are accurate and half of early interest in BlackBerry 10 came from non-BlackBerry users, this means a fair amount of early Z10 sales will be made to iPhone users, Android users and feature phone owners — three crucial groups that BlackBerry must sway if it hopes to find success in the modern smartphone market.
The caveats are that BlackBerry enjoys a home-field advantage in Canada and that the findings need to be replicated. That said, the report – and the natural use of BES/BES 10 as a tool to control BYOD – suggests that there is at least some reason for optimism in the BlackBerry camp. It’s a long time since that could be said.