BlackBerry reaffirms commitment to enterprise market, highly regulated industries

Jeff Holleran
Jeff Holleran

While former CEO Thorsten Heins may be gone from BlackBerry, the enterprise-focused strategy he laid out before his departure lives on in a series of announcements the vendor made last week at the Mobile Word Congress 2014 event in Barcelona.

Last September, amid more layoffs and troubling financial earnings, the former CEO outlined a new go-forward strategy for BlackBerry: offer fewer handsets, focus on its traditional enterprise and prosumer strengths and abandon attempts to crack the broader consumer mass market.

“Going forward, we plan to refocus our offerings on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user. This puts us squarely on target with the customers that helped build BlackBerry into the leading brand today for enterprise security, manageability and reliability,” said Heins last fall.

While Heins is gone, Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management, at BlackBerry, told CDN the enterprise space is still BlackBerry’s focus going forward.

“As a company we’re focusing on that core business of ours in the enterprise space, bringing the services those enterprise customers are looking for both in the BlackBerry platform, and broadening BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) to support Android, iOS and Windows Phone.”

A number of announcements last week served to flesh out this vision. A new QWERTY handset, the Q20, will bring back the toolbar and appeal to BlackBerry’s core enterprise productivity users. BES12, a new version of BlackBerry’s flagship mobile device management (MDM) platform, adds support for Windows devices and new tools for proactive management and monitoring. And eBBM brings the power of instant messaging through BlackBerry Messenger to users with enterprise-class encryption and security.

BlackBerry sees the mobile market breaking down into three segments: the tightly regulated industries where organizations provide secure devices to the end user, the Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) model where organizations allow users to pick from a list of IT-approved and secure devices, and a full Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model where users can bring in whatever device they want.

While BlackBerry expects to play in all three markets, the upper end of that chain where security is more paramount will likely be its bread and butter.

“When I’m talking to an enterprise today about the value of BlackBerry they have two concerns for their end users: they want a fully secure end-to-end mobile solution and a highly productive mobile experience,” said Holleran. “It’s important to make sure it’s a productive experience for the end user, and that they don’t need to take a lot of steps to interact with the device in a secure environment.

BlackBerry’s goal is to make the security transparent, as it has done with e-mail. That’s the approach it has taken to messaging with eBBM. It’s integrated with the user’s personal BBM but the security happens behind the scenes, with the platform able to know which conversations are business-related and therefore in need of a greater level of encryption and security.

“There’s a lot of interest (in instant messaging) from enterprises driven by two factors,” said Holleran. “Some find users utilizing it anyhow; IM and the BBM experience come together nicely in the mobile world, and you know your message has been delivered. Also, they see the immediacy, and the value that kind of communication can bring into the organization as something they want to bring in – managed conversations with the right audit tools if required is a powerful thing to them. It can also provide that point to point conversation without taxing the (e-mail) messaging infrastructure in an unnecessary fashion.”

On the BES front, while he can’t break out any numbers Holleran said non-BlackBerry shops are definitely a focus for them when it comes to growing the BES install base, and in addition to iOS and Android, there is a growing call to support Windows Phome 8 devices.

“We add new functionality based on customer demand, and in the home turf of Nokia in Europe we’re starting to see more support for us adding the Windows Phone 8 experience into our MDM platform,” said Holleran.

Going forward, Holleran said the highly regulated customer segment and new vertical applications will be BlackBerry’s focus.

“You’ll see us continuing to support the highly regulated customers as the gold standard of mobility, and you’ll see us expand further beyond mobile devices into the mobile applications space,” said Holleran. “The first app BlackBerry mobilized was e-mail. You’ll see us taking what we learned mobilizing e-mail and apply it to other high security vertical apps that exist in the enterprise, and help enterprise users to extract value from their mobile applications.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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