BlackBerry CEO John Chen took the long-anticipated step of announcing the next phase in its transition to a software company on Nov. 13 with a new partnership with former rival Samsung. The big news is that Samsung's Knox enterprise security system will be integrated with the release of BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12 (BES12), due out in January.
Samsung's Knox was probably the best known and most prominent competitor to BlackBerry. Samsung is one of the companies that relegated BlackBerry to the position of an also-ran in the mobile phone sales race. Samsung is currently the leading producer of mobile devices since it long ago overtook Apple in the number of devices sold.
Samsung has gone from mobile hardware rival to software partner now that the two companies have agreed to integrate Samsung Knox into BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12 and into the company's Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) system.
While earlier versions of BES would work with Android and iOS devices, the new partnership with Samsung takes the integration a step farther. Moreover, it acknowledges Samsung's position in the enterprise. In addition, the integration between Knox and BES brings BlackBerry the ability to completely separate the work and personal sides of a mobile device.
Previously, such separation was only possible with BlackBerry Balance, which ran only on BlackBerry 10 devices. The new WorkLife product accomplishes the same capability with Android, but it also allows a mobile device to have two phone numbers, one for work and one for personal use by implementing a virtual SIM (subscriber identity module).
Ultimately, however, it is the extension of BES 12 into integration with Samsung Android devices that could have the biggest corporate impact and also the biggest effect on BlackBerry's long-term outlook. This integration partnership opens a vast new market for BlackBerry that simply wasn't there before, while providing an opportunity for Samsung to promote the adoption of its Android devices in enterprises.
By taking this step, BlackBerry also cements itself more firmly into its new role as a provider of enterprise security software for a wide variety of devices. With BES 12, secure EMM now goes beyond BlackBerry and Android devices to everything from medical equipment and connected cars. Few people realize that BlackBerry has for years been a dominant provider of software embedded in computers for these applications, but without the EMM component.
In fact, BlackBerry's QNX software exists in everything from automotive fuel injection systems to aircraft flight control computers and medical equipment, including heart monitors. Now with BES 12, those devices can be part of a secure mobile management network, something that simply wasn't easily available before.