Back in the early part of last decade, I was a BlackBerry addict. I couldn’t live without my BlackBerry. It kept me connected when I was away from the office and I got really proficient with its little keyboard. Interestingly enough, the only other product I found as powerful was from Good Technology (which is owned by BlackBerry Limited).
Now a decade and a half later, I’m once again carrying a BlackBerry — the PRIV — and once again wedded to it. This one runs Android and is far sexier but holds the same attraction for me — it is what keeps me connected when I’m away from the office.
BlackBerry’s revenue growth is pretty impressive, with its software business growing 43 percent year over year, as firms see the device as a natural solution for device management and as a better response to data breaches.
As part of its fight to return to relevance, BlackBerry has embraced other platforms this week — including Windows — as it showcases an interesting alternative to VPN/VDI. This was the first big coming-out party for the combined solutions it has obtained after merging with Securesmart, Movirtu, WatchDox, AtHoc and Good. Let’s talk about the highlights.
Windows Joins the Family
It amazes me how slowly we are coming around to the idea that smartphones, tablets and PCs are all personal computers that need some level of consistent management and protection. In most cases, we treat them very differently, even though they can all run many of the same applications and they represent similar exposure. BlackBerry is one of the first firms to understand that, regardless of the size of a personal computer, it still needs some level of management, centralized security and access control.
For Windows, at least initially, this is extending Good app support via Good Access. Or, basically, an HTML5 framework for apps with offline capabilities, a secure container, and a collaboration environment built on Good Work (this is currently in Beta). But this takes a significant step toward treating Windows as just another mobile platform. On paper, this looks to be one of the more elegant and easy-to-manage solutions for BYOD.
BES 12 Updates
A big part of BlackBerry’s announcement was its enhancements to the BES 12 MDM platform, which showcase the gradual blending of Good products with BlackBerry’s existing offerings. Enhancements include unified enrollment across both lines, Mac OS X support, integration of BlackBerry’s Secure Gateway with the Exchange ActiveSync Proxy, taking Secure Connect Plus to iOS 9, and the integration of the OpenTrust PKI on top of the Windows Application management noted above.
What I continue to find interesting is that in the U.S. government, the market was largely divided between Good and BlackBerry for this class of tool. Now with the merger, BlackBerry should own this segment.
WatchDox starts to become integrated with BES 12 with this announcement so there is a single console to manage on-premise WatchDox deployments, which makes purchasing and billing far easier (a common request). Secure file sharing has been implemented to better integrate with eDiscovery tools to respond to litigation and assure compliance; mobile editing has been expanded with integration Docs To Go. The result is that WatchDox is now a more integrated part of this overall solution.
BlackBerry Killer App
With the continued efforts, particularly by the U.S. government, to create back doors or shared security keys, BlackBerry’s non-U.S. influenced set of security tools has become the favored solution for firms and governments that don’t want to be secretly monitored. It is interesting to note that, were the government ever successful in applying these rules to the various U.S. platforms in the market, they likely would immediately become non-compliant with the U.S. government’s own security requirements. It’s no wonder folks like Tim Cook are standing up and arguing against the government’s foolish effort.
The BlackBerry mobile security solution is now arguably the most comprehensive one from a major vendor and includes protection for electronic eavesdropping on both voice and data while maintaining high voice quality. And BlackBerry does not retain the encryption keys, so it is unable to respond to efforts by any third-party entity to breach customer security.
We live in a pretty hostile world. While there has been a lot of focus on enterprise PCs and security, the focus on the now more common mobile devices has languished in the face of a massive push for ease of use. BlackBerry stands out as the one vendor that caught on first that security was important and that someone needed to carve out an expertise in it. This announcement showcases that renewed focus, and the impressive software sales growth illustrates the realization that firms need to better wrap themselves with a far more comprehensive set of protections.
For Good, this shows that it finally found a home where it is appreciated, having bounced from unfocused owner to unfocused owner for a bit. The combination of these two firms and the fact that BlackBerry is pretty much beyond U.S. government control is looking like an impressive foundation for growth into an ever more critical security market.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+.