BlackBerry is expanding and enriching its enterprise mobile offerings with a wide swath of new products, ranging from the latest BES 12 Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) platform to an Android security partnership with Samsung and new identity management systems that can help enterprises better protect their cloud users.
These moves, and about seven other new product and partnership announcements, are all part of the Canada-based company’s efforts to reverse its declining fortunes of the last seven years and begin again growing its business, revenue and customer base. The announcements were unveiled Nov. 13 in a live BlackBerry Enterprise Portfolio Launch event in San Francisco that was also Webcast live.
The expanded and improved new BES 12 platform will have a lot to do with that expected future growth, John Chen, the company’s CEO, said during the Webcast. After several years of business declines, Chen said he expects that BES 12 will help the company double its 2014 take of $250 million in software revenue to at least $500 million in 2015.
And if that doesn’t happen, said Chen with a smile, members of the company’s sales team will have to pay the consequences and be replaced. “But I’ll still be here,” he joked.
BlackBerry’s fall from dominating the enterprise smartphone market has been swift and stunning. BlackBerry spent much of 2012 and 2013 trying to shake off the image that it was finished, especially compared with its presence five years earlier when its devices were the “enterprise gold standard” for mobile business communications, according to earlier eWEEK reports. In early 2006, half of all smartphones sold were BlackBerry models. By 2009, though, its share of the global smartphone market was down to 20 percent.
The turnaround is happening, said Chen, and will continue to be fueled by the new innovations being generated by the company throughout 2015. “We will get it done, as we promised,” he said. Next year the company will be focused on growth, thanks to the new products it unveiled, as well as due to promising developments with recent smartphone unveilings aimed at enterprise users, he said.
“Everything is on schedule, or ahead of schedule,” he said. “Despite all the changes and cutbacks that we had to endure last year, unfortunately, I would like to focus on what the team has accomplished,” including the recently unveiled Passport smartphone that quickly sold out its first 200,000 units in September.
“Yes, we didn’t build too many of them, and yes, it ran out of stock around the world in a very short time,” said Chen. “A good problem to have.”
BES 12 Is BlackBerry’s Big Bet
Highlighting the event was the announcement of the latest BES 12 EMM platform, which allows enterprises to control access, data and applications across BlackBerry devices and systems, as well as for Android, iOS and Windows Phone platforms.
BlackBerry Beefs Up Enterprise Focus With BES 12, Myriad Other Wares
“Our Enterprise Portfolio, with BES12 at its foundation, does so much more than just manage cross-platform devices,” John Sims, BlackBerry’s president of global enterprise services, said in a statement. “Among many other capabilities, the portfolio provides easy and safe access to corporate data, manages an array of employee IDs, and offers new ways to securely and conveniently collaborate with colleagues. Today’s announcements demonstrate that BlackBerry is delivering on our promise to design and develop enterprise solutions that drive secure communications and collaboration for our customers.”
BES12 provides businesses with a single command and control center for managing the availability and usage of devices, apps, activities and mission-critical data, according to BlackBerry.
Samsung Partnership for Android
Also unveiled was a strategic partnership with Samsung Electronics that will provide highly secure mobility services for Android devices, according to BlackBerry. The services, which will be available in early 2015, will give enterprise users a tightly integrated, end-to-end service that brings together BES 12 with Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets as well as with Samsung’s KNOX security offerings.
Bloomberg will be using the new Android services, Chris Behringer, Bloomberg’s head of enterprise mobility, said at the event. “BlackBerry and Samsung’s creation of an integrated enterprise solution for Android makes sense,” Behringer said in a statement. “Security is a top priority for us, and this combined offering provides a new versatile option to the marketplace.”
Other new products were also introduced, including Enterprise Identity by BlackBerry and VPN Authentication by BlackBerry, which will allow enterprises to better ensure employee identity and access management for increased security. The VPN Authentication by BlackBerry product will allow businesses to securely connect mobile employees to their organization’s network when and where it is needed, without the need for passwords or PINs, while using any iOS, Android or BlackBerry smartphone, according to BlackBerry. The VPN authentication application helps enterprises move away from traditional hardware tokens, while saving money on support and related costs, the company said.
A new BlackBerry Meetings (BBM) mobile app was also unveiled, featuring voice and video conferencing between users of multiple types of operating systems, according to BlackBerry. Using BBM, users on Android or BlackBerry 10 smartphones will be able to conference with users on Windows PCs or Macs, improving collaboration with mobile workers. The service will work for up to 25 participants at a time.
Also unveiled was WorkLife By BlackBerry, which allow enterprises to add a separate corporate phone numbers to personal devices brought in by their employees or for an employee to add a separate personal phone number to a device provided by a company. Using WorkLife, companies can split the expenses efficiently so that employees can be reimbursed for work-related use of a personal device or vice versa. Earlier in September, BlackBerry acquired Movirtu, a U.K. startup whose specialized software enables a smartphone to have more than one phone number.
In October, Chen said he has high hopes for the upcoming BlackBerry Classic smartphone, according to a recent eWEEK report. At the enterprise mobility event, Chen announced that the new Classic phone will debut on Dec. 17 in New York City, Frankfurt and Singapore.