BlackBerry and Samsung are continuing to work together as a way for both companies to solve their enterprise market problems with the help of the other.
On one hand, Samsung has created the fashion-forward Galaxy S6, which will appeal to customers who want the latest thing. BlackBerry, meanwhile, has mobile security nailed down like no other mobile device maker.
But without Samsung, BlackBerry has a set of smartphones with limited appeal and weak application support. On the other hand, Samsung’s in-house security solution, Knox, isn’t getting the kind of reception in the lucrative enterprise market that the Korean technology giant wishes.
Worse, Samsung’s reputation as a leader in mobile electronics was hurt by the lackluster Galaxy S5 and slowing sales across its mobile device line, particularly in its core Asia market. It badly needs the Galaxy S6 to be successful.
Samsung’s snazzy new glass and metal design, which seems to have been intended to look as much like an iPhone 6 as possible, will draw some users, but in reality most enterprise users have their heads turned by functionality, not looks. This is where BlackBerry comes in.
BlackBerry’s announcement at Mobile World Congress of a series of services and products designed exclusively for the S6 followed on the heels of the phone’s introduction at the show in Barcelona, Spain.
When the S6 is delivered in April, it will include support for BlackBerry Enterprise Services version 12 in Samsung’s Knox, which is its enterprise-level security suite. In addition, the S6 will get availability of WorkLife by BlackBerry, which is the software that allows the phone to be divided into a personal side and an enterprise side.
The WorkLife feature allows an enterprise mobile device manager application to control the enterprise side of the device, while not exposing the personal side to access by management. This capability was previously only available on BlackBerry 10 devices.
In addition, it eliminates the possibility of the enterprise manager wiping the employee’s personal data when managing the work side of the device.
The BlackBerry software also gives the Samsung S6 the ability to have two different phone lines, one for personal and one for corporate use, something previously available only to BlackBerry devices.
In addition to providing a way to handle employee-owned devices while securing corporate data, BlackBerry is bringing its SecuSmart line of products to Samsung. This hardware encryption provides secure mobile voice communications that are reputed to resist interception by the National Security Agency surveillance systems.
The SecuSUITE software is already being used on BlackBerry 10 devices for protection against phone taps and other electronic eavesdropping, and it provides protection for data as well.
You may have noticed that these products are some of BlackBerry’s crown jewels. Now that the company has withdrawn from competing in the consumer smartphone market, security has become BlackBerry’s reason for existence. Without world-class security, the company has nothing.
BlackBerry, Samsung Alliance Could Save BlackBerry in Enterprise
So why is BlackBerry providing its core technology to Samsung? Ultimately, it has little choice but to partner with some other company. Despite its solid software and its reputation for security, BlackBerry needs customers. It’s not getting those customers from its own device sales, and as a result, it must sell its products elsewhere.
This is where the partnership with Samsung comes in. The two companies forged an alliance last year, and BlackBerry started providing security and services, beginning with BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and BlackBerry Messenger. Next, it’s moving on to WorkLife and SecuSUITE. This gives the company a chance to stay in business even if the sales of devices with its own brand drop off a cliff.
This was a major concession by the troubled Canadian phone maker, but one that is critically necessary if BlackBerry is to stay relevant in the device market.
While BlackBerry has other business interests, including QNX and its related automobile, aviation and space business as well as its growing Internet of things platform, mobile devices are still core to the company’s existence. Partnering with Samsung helps ensure BlackBerry’s existence.
But it has to have more marketing allies than just Samsung. Despite the fact that Samsung is the largest mobile device vendor out there, its enterprise business is still only a tiny part of the market.
What this really means is that for BlackBerry to do well, the company has to find another mobile device company that’s also widely used in the enterprise—and there’s really only one of those, which is Apple.
While Apple’s current enterprise direction is firmly aimed at IBM, there’s no reason to think that BlackBerry is somehow excluded. The biggest difficulty for the company is to get its products running under iOS and to get Apple and perhaps IBM to be willing participants.
At this point it’s not clear whether there’s any sort of exclusive arrangement binding BlackBerry and Samsung together. Assuming that there isn’t, then partnering with Apple makes a lot of sense for BlackBerry.
Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the choices after Apple are pretty slim. Most of the other major mobile phone makers are from China, and that raises some significant security issues. Would BlackBerry dare to enter into a security partnership with the likes of ZTE or Huawei?
Would doing so endanger its relationship with the U.S. government? While no one has said that the government would dump BlackBerry if the company entered into a partnership with a Chinese device maker, it’s also true that no one has said it wouldn’t.
This means that while BlackBerry will likely have to partner to stay strong, it has a limited number of potential partners to choose from.