For the longest time, BlackBerry’s ace in the hole was its enterprise presence. One could argue that may be changing now, as more and more business are either opting for other devices or shifting towards the “bring your own device” (BYOD) paradigm and users generally favor other phones. But with BlackBerry’s latest developments and the announcement that it would be bringing BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.1 (BES) to multiple platforms, the company is adamant that it can bring to the table what no one else can.
“Nothing is more secure than BlackBerry, but at the same time, we understand that it’s a diverse world out there with BYOD,” said Pete Devenyi, BlackBerry Senior Vice President of Enterprise Software, during a panel at BlackBerry Live 2013. “So we listened and brought that BlackBerry ‘special sauce’ to the table to manage those devices better than anybody else can.”
Though one of the other panelists, Jeff Holleran, BlackBerry Senior Director of Enterprise Product Management, wasn’t quite as welcoming of the advent of BYOD, he pointed out that BlackBerry offered ideal solutions for the tricky situation the paradigm creates.
“If an organization is thinking about doing BYOD, I would want to make sure they’ve thought it through,” said Holleran. “It isn’t just a matter of getting users on the network. What do you do when that person leaves the organization?” Businesses need to make sure that they protect their information when an employee departs. But at the same time, the device in question doubles as a personal one in the case of BYOD, so confiscating it isn’t an option and wiping it isn’t ideal.
And that’s where BES 10.1 and BlackBerry Balance, the enterprise solution that splits a device into two distinct “personal” and “work” sectors, come in. “The user is left whole,” said Holleran. “That personal data is still there when they leave the organization. IT can simply remove the work side and protect the end user data.” But no matter what, he said, businesses need to make sure that they have a solid contract with their employees about what’s going to take place both when they come in and when they leave.
BYOD isn’t the only aspect of culture that’s driving BlackBerry’s endeavors, though. Holleran also talked about BES 10.1’s Enterprise Instant Messaging 3.0 feature, which ties into BlackBerry Hub and allows users to chat in both one-on-one and multi-party settings. “This can help enterprises; real-time communication and knowing the availability of people on the other said,” he said, referring to the fact that the app features presence to let users know who’s available.
The fact that so many people are on the go — but are able to communicate with the mobile device that they always have on hand — dictates the need for instant messaging. “Businesses need to consider when the mode of communication exists, where the user may be, etc.,” he said.” [These factors] drive the culture to use it.”
A Daunting Future
In some respects, it’s difficult to deny the bleakness of BlackBerry’s future in the enterprise landscape. Michael Osterman, President of Osterman Research and the moderator of the panel, said that recent surveys did, in fact, indicate that enterprise support for BlackBerry and BES is decreasing. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense recently said that it will begin allowing government employees to use iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones because their security measures pass muster.
Even BlackBerry’s willingness to open up its BES 10.1 software to Android and iOS can’t save them in this case, given that the alternative devices’ security software (e.g. Samsung’s Knox) have been approved. If users prefer other hardware to BlackBerrys and the software that comes preloaded on those iPhones and Galaxies is sufficient in the eyes of the DoD, then BlackBerry will also be left out in the cold on the software level.
Some called this the final nail in BlackBerry’s coffin, as the loss of exclusivity with government agencies is a crippling blow for the company. But Scott Totzke, Senior Vice President of BlackBerry Security, isn’t sweating the news.
“What I can say is that the only vendor that provides all of the capabilities to deploy, support, and secure devices out of the box is BlackBerry,” said Totzke. “The other vendors are reliant on third parties.” BlackBerry, meanwhile, has a deep integration of security, he said. He mentioned not only the mobile device management aspect of BES 10.1, but the company’s trusted network infrastructure as well.
“We have a very complete solution,” he said. “We’re delighted to see DoD invest in and support BlackBerry.”