BlackBerry Acquisition Enables Multiple Numbers on Smartphones

U.K.-based Movirtu enables employees to have two phone numbers and split billing between corporate and personal use.

BlackBerry, once the prima donna of the enterprise smartphone world but now barely holding 2.3 percent market share, made an acquisition Sept. 11 that should give it some major differentiation in the market.

The Toronto-based device maker said it has agreed to acquire Movirtu, a U.K. startup whose specialized software enables a smartphone to have more than one phone number. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

By effectively dividing a smartphone into what amounts to multiple devices, Movirtu enables companies to avoid paying costs incurred by employees who use corporate devices for personal use.

It enables split billing along with the use of personal and corporate profiles. With this new functionality, BlackBerry will be able to provide iOS, Android and BlackBerry device users with a fair and accurate way to split phone and data service bills between employers and their staff people and contractors.

"With the Movirtu Virtual SIM platform, we enable employees to have two phone numbers that splits [billing] between corporate and personal use," Movirtu CEO Carsten Brinkschulte wrote in the BlackBerry blog. "Our technology is unique and is based on a number of patents, with many [other] applications that can be used to build flexible and powerful solutions for customers and end users."

The strategy behind BlackBerry's move is pretty apparent. It sets the company apart from the pack in an area that's of interest to everybody: financial accounting.

"Our strategy is to broaden BlackBerry's solutions and services that enable our customers to fully embrace the potential of enterprise mobility," BlackBerry Enterprise President John Sims said. "As we move to a BYOD (bring your own device) and COPE (corporately owned, personally enabled) world, there remain a number of policy, efficiency and convenience challenges facing enterprises, mobile operators, and consumers alike.

"Our aim is to improve BYOD and COPE policy management and billing, increasing efficiency and convenience."

Enterprise customers will now be able to provision single devices for corporate and personal use, while at the same time allowing discrete enterprise policies to be applied to only the work side of the device, Sims said.

"This also allows full usability of the personal portion of the device; split bills for voice, data and messaging; and provide the ability to switch between profiles easily," Sims said.

On Aug. 12 in California, a federal court of appeals ruled in a class-action lawsuit (Cochran vs. Schwan) that companies with employees in California are now responsible for reimbursing employees for business-related calls on corporate devices. This ruling may set precedence for BYOD and COPE programs throughout the country.

The Movirtu intellectual property could go a long way in helping untangle complicated enterprise smartphone billing, so it stands to become a significant revenue center for the struggling device maker.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...