BlackBerry 10 racks up 100 UK business trials as BlackBerry downplays enterprise threat from rivals

BlackBerry is continuing to tout its new BlackBerry platform for business users, as it signs up tens of businesses in the UK to test BlackBerry 10 devices and software.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

BlackBerry revealed it now has more than 100 UK businesses trialling its new BlackBerry 10 OS and handsets, as it continues its bid to build on its business heritage.

BlackBerry, previously known as Research in Motion (RIM), revealed it had hit the milestone at an event in London to tout its services to new and existing customers.

Among the more than 100 organisations piloting BlackBerry 10 is the Aneurin Bevan Health Board in Wales. Drew Evans, head of ICT at the organisation, told ZDNet that it is currently in testing to roll out the new generation of devices after earlier deploying BlackBerry 7 handsets.

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"We have a lot more care in the community [than previously], a lot more community staff out there. What we needed was a solution to give access to information... in transit, when it was secure, and allow us to schedule patient care," Evans said.

"We got handsets and the applications into the hands of nurses - it's not the 'executive toy', it's right down at the ground level. That [BlackBerry 7] programme is successful and is currently growing as we speak," he added.

Evans said the board is now in the early stages of testing BlackBerry 10 devices. One of the key features of the OS is its the ability to keep work and personal data completely separate on the device through its Balance feature, Evans said.

"We don't just use them for email, it's also used for file shares, access to the intranet and a number of other key applications…  We have the usual pressures from execs and other parts of the organisation that want the play aspect as well, they want Angry Birds and all those other things. It has been difficult until now to provide an offering to them without saying 'have two phones'.

"We see Z10s and subsequent devices as key to being able to provide that balance between the two spaces."

However, with an ever-increasing number of Android and iOS devices providing strong competition in the enterprise, and Samsung's business-focused Knox announcement, is BlackBerry concerned about its core market?

Apparently not, according to Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management at BlackBerry, who sees the influx of devices into businesses as an opportunity rather than a threat.

"As an enterprise software vendor we're building these solutions out to go across all of those platforms," Holleran said. "You have the ability to separate data across the platforms — we'll be delivering that with Secure Workspace — and with BlackBerry 10 we have the unique ability to separate the data for the purposes of data leakage but bring it together when appropriate in places like the Hub so you have a single place to go for messaging, or in applications like the calendar where it only makes sense to have a single calendar view across items."

Secure Workflow debuts

Customers at the Wednesday event were among the first to get a look at Secure Workspace, an upcoming feature for BES 10. The feature is designed to extend some of the security capabilities found in the BlackBerry and BES platforms to other devices, such as those running iOS or Android.

"The BlackBerry Secure Workspace really provides that secure space for iOS and Android devices, with a full PIM (Personal Information Manager) suite inside of there, they can put their applications into to operate securely with other applications," Holleran said.

During his plenary address Holleran also demonstrated connectivity through the BlackBerry infrastructure of a non-BlackBerry device — a first for the company.

"These were really quick sneak peeks, we'll be talking a lot more about this Secure Workspace feature over time," he added, hinting in an interview with ZDNet that more information about the future of BES will be revealed at its BlackBerry Live event in Orlando, Florida in May.

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