How BlackBerry is riding iOS and Android to power its comeback

How BlackBerry is riding iOS and Android to power its comeback

Summary: The very factor that decimated BlackBerry over the past five years is now becoming one of the most important catalysts in its turnaround.


While a fresh new generation of BlackBerry phones fight a ferocious battle for third place in the smartphone race, BlackBerry's other big business remains in a great position in its red-hot market, Mobile Device Management (MDM). At BlackBerry Live 2013 in Orlando this week, the company rolled out a major update to BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) and deepened its commitment to making BES a multiplatform solution that now deeply secures its two leading smartphone competitors.

Ironically, the trend that brutally undercut BlackBerry phones during the past five years—the "bring your own device" (BYOD) movement—is now driving significant sales of BES, the company's backend software. At BlackBerry Live, the company released version 10.1 of BES. BES 10.1 will support a powerful new module that will launch at the end of June called Secure Work Space, which brings BlackBerry's high security mobile solution to Android and iOS. 

"Our customers have been asking, 'Can you just take what you've done on BlackBerry and put it on iOS and Android?'" said Pete Devenyi, BlackBerry's SVP of Enterprise Software. 

While older versions of BES could do some basic administration of non-BlackBerry smartphones like iPhone, Android, and other types of devices, the solution was limited to the basics, including a full remote wipe of devices when those employees left the company. But, that's obviously not a great solution with BYOD where employees own the devices. With Secure Work Space, BlackBerry will manage iOS and Android devices in a much more sophisticated and secure way. 

Part of that is due to the fact that BES 10 not only does mobile device management, but also does mobile application management, and secure mobile connectivity as well. This triple play raises the bar on manageability. One of the key factors that makes all of this happen in BES 10 is a module called BlackBerry Balance that cleanly separates work and personal data and applications. For example, you can't copy and paste between work and personal data and in a BYOD situation where an employee leaves the company and IT needs to wipe the business data off the device then it can wipe the work side of the phone without affecting the former employee's personal data.

However, BlackBerry Balance is limited to BlackBerry devices because they are designed from the ground up to function this way and to adhere to this security model. Because of that, BlackBerry can't bring Balance to Android and iOS because those operating systems are simply architected differently. But, BlackBerry is doing the next best thing by bringing a lot of these same features to iOS and Android with Secure Work Space. 

"With Secure Work Space, it really is a secure container," said Devenyi. 

Image: Jason Hiner

Secure Work Space will be an app in the Apple App Store and Google Play, pending approval from Apple and Google, respectively. It will include secure email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and document editing. It won't allow data leakage including copy and paste between Secure Work Space and the rest of the device. IT will be able to remotely wipe everything in the Secure Work Space without affecting any of the other apps or data on the person's device, in a BYOD scenario.

"It really is about the separation of work data and personal data," Devenyi said. "It supports a BYOD model much more directly."

Another thing that Secure Work Space does is to create a fully encrypted tunnel back to the BES 10 server so that all communications from it are secure, even if you're on an insecure connection such as an Internet cafe or public Wi-Fi. In the past, you'd typically need to launch a VPN tunnel in order to accomplish that, but Secure Work Space does it automatically and at all times.

Devenyi said, "There's no need for a VPN. It's a [continually] secure outbound port"

The combination of secure data and apps and a secure connection turns BYOD Android and iOS smartphones and tablets into highly secure business devices. That's what BlackBerry is bringing to market at the end of Q2, built on top of BES 10.1. 

"For the first time, a solution on Android and iOS can benefit and take advantage of the BlackBerry infrastructure and BlackBerry security model," said Devenyi.

BlackBerry does not split out BES revenue from its revenue from smartphones, but clearly it's a much more attractive business than the commodity mobile hardware business. And, Devenyi said that BlackBerry is seeing "exploding" demand for MDM solutions to manage BYOD. 

In its latest analysis of the MDM market, Gartner corroborated that perspective saying, "MDM is the fastest-growing enterprise mobile software ever (in terms of number of suppliers, revenue growth and interest from Gartner clients)."

That growth is fueling a crowd of companies to jump into MDM, but BlackBerry is one of the creators of the category and one of the most trusted names in mobile security. The fact that many of the companies that need MDM for BYOD have previously relied on BlackBerry and BES to manage their mobile devices provides the company with an excellent opportunity to become a market leader in securing for iOS and Android for BYOD. The irony is obvious, but don't underestimate how much this could potentially fuel BlackBerry's comeback, no matter what BlackBerry devices do.

Also read

Topics: Mobility, BlackBerry, Security

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  • Blackberry's Future

    So is it your take the RIM's best shot is as a primarily software company since that is what is keeping them afloat now days?
  • cling to that mid low market

    Just like nokia, its pushing for emergents and third world country, rim its doing the same all this time, but they have to improve the offering, since the gap its filling, samsung have done an amazing job with their galaxy brand but user experience on mid lowend android have been bad or worse, but blackberry and windows phone have that lowend friendly ecosystem.

    Take advantage of it and you can earn a bigger market otherwise they are relegated to the fourth place. Currently the price of new blackberry its just overpriced and people are looking for alternatives rim need this market thats why the price must be right.

    Google on other hand have the keys to dominate all, the nexus program its a success but they are not expanding it to places that need a good decent android phone at a affordable price. And again samsung its taking advantage if this.
    • The z10 is not overpriced

      This is a super high grade phone running bloody QNX, for pete's sake... the most advanced mobile OS ever created. This is not a bargain basement phone.
      • LOL!

        Most advanced mobile OS ever created? BB10? Are you high on acid? BB10 is nowhere near as good as the top 3.
        • Really?

          Where is it lacking compared to the othe moible operating systems?
          • Please stop

            BB10 is the absolute buggiest OS I've ever used since BB OS7. You Blackberry apologists need to move on. Stop clinging to life support and let the old girl go out gracefully.
    • Not overpriced

      At Rogers in Canada, the Z10 is the LEAST EXPENSIVE of the premium phones:

      1. Samsung S4 - $700 ($200 on contract)
      2. iPhone 5 (16GB) - $700 ($180 on contract)
      3. HTC One - $650 ($150 on contract)
      4. Z10 - $600 ($100 on contract)

      Even the spanking-brand-new Q10 with the wonderful physical keyboard is only $650 ($200 on contract).
      • Differences....

        iPhone 5 has been out for over 8 months now. They dropped the price when the Q10 was announced. Sansung S 4 just came out but was never at the price levels when the iPhone 5 first came out. The Z10 has actually dropped to nothing on a contract [unsure if just a sale or not].
    • Errr...

      Why spend $400 on an iPhone gadget when you can get something quite good for half the price. They aren't in the "low" priced market except in emerging markets. Apple is rumored to come out with a low cost iPhone for those markets or just sell all the obsolete models there...
  • Loaded question...

    " is it your take..."

    Come on! Read the article.

    1. Did the article state or imply "RIM's best shot"? No.
    2. Did the article state or imply that "software is primarily keeping them afloat now days"? No.
  • Good for RIM

    Security always was their strong point.
    • Until they gave copies of the keys to ...

      ... hostile governments in order to make $$$.

      Sorry, but security is no longer a good selling point for RIM.
      • That was for BIS

        Governments, or BlackBerry, do not have the keys for private BES server installations.
  • Good to hear but.....

    It is good to hear that they are adopting other platforms to boost BES but I have not heard as yet if they would be also adopting other email server platforms besides Exchange. Wouldn't this also help.
    • To Clarify

      BES has supported Lotus Domino and Novel GroupWise for a long time. BES 10 does the same.
  • This might just be their saviour...

    There is a huge installed base of Blackberry users in the corporate arena in countries like India. Almost every executive in every mid- and large-sized company owns a company-provided Blackberry device for official email. And almost all these people carry a second device - a personal device - for non official use. This has long been a major sore point for this segment.

    If this new software solution can address this problem and eliminate the need for any one of the 2 devices, RIM could have a winning proposition.

    As always in emerging markets, pricing of the management software will be the critical determining factor for success.
  • Joke

    Come on guys, over 90% of cell phones are sold to everyday people not company's, right now Blackberry has nothing that sets it apart from the pack. It's OS looks just like apple and Android, works just like Android, the phone is a black flat brick. Blackberry needs something that people want and no one else has. And right now that is really nothing and if they start letting Apple and Android run their software and BBM, why would anyone want a blackberry phone?
    • Errr....

      Doesn't have the malware that is attacking Androids.
      Doesn't have the OS problems of the iPhone 5 [granted I think they were fixed now but had WiFi, batter, maps and other issues - crappy QC].
      Neither have the security of a Blackberry [which is why most governments use them].
  • businessman's buddy no more?

    The most frustrating thing is how BB does not work well with VPNs. My provider ( works fine on all other devices and OS (i tested all). So maybe they should reconsider their platform if they want to remain the businessman's buddy. Security is more important than ever.
    • OK.

      So that's just a single VPN. There are others out there.