BlackBerry's Future: Smartphones Or MDM?


Is BlackBerry's future in mobile device management rather than smartphones?

It's a question worth asking, according to solution providers that believe BlackBerry's multi-platform BYOD solutions will keep the company viable if its smartphones continue to lose share. At the BlackBerry Live event earlier this month, the company announced several new software features and updates for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Enterprise Services offerings that further expand the solutions to Android and iOS devices.

First, the company released version 10.1 of its BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10, a free download for existing customers that includes tighter controls for managing mobile devices -- including Android and iOS -- in the commercial market. For example, BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.1 now offers regulated management of mobile devices and gives IT administrators the option to set policies and controls to restrict personal use of BlackBerry 10 smartphones by blocking personal apps and content. A future update scheduled for this summer will extend that BES capability to iOS and Android devices, too.

[Related: Make Or Break: 10 New Features Of BlackBerry 10]

In addition, BlackBerry next month plans to deliver its Secure Work Space solution for Android and iOS devices. The new mobility management platform is similar to BlackBerry 10's Balance, which enables users to create a personal profile and a work profile on their BlackBerry devices. In addition, Secure Work Space allows businesses to deploy additional features and mobile applications through the platform without having to modify or alter an app's source code.

And lastly, the company also announced changes for BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which includes an update for BBM 3.0 plus the ability to use the enterprise messaging service on iOS and Android devices. BlackBerry said it will enable BBM for iOS 6 and Android 4.0 or higher starting this summer, subject to approval by the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Robby Hill, CEO of HillSouth, a BlackBerry partner based in Florence, S.C., said extending BBM 3.0 to third-party platforms is key. "I'm more excited by the announcement to finally extend BlackBerry Messenger to other mobile platforms [than the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.1 update]," Hill said. "I think that allowing iOS and Android users to participate in BBM will help to eventually grow the BlackBerry platform."

Hill also said BlackBerry could benefit from the growth around enterprise instant messaging and the BYOD trend. "Secondly, we see so many more companies using enterprise IM like Microsoft Lync and IBM Lotus SameTime," he said, "and it's encouraging that BlackBerry has included free support for these major enterprise IM clients and will also keep the enterprise and personal sessions separate on the devices.

Jeff Lauria, director of technology at iCorps Technologies in Boston, also believes that BlackBerry can leverage the BYOD trend for success in its software business.

"I think BYOD has hurt BlackBerry's devices because they're not cool anymore, and businesses now are letting individuals decided what kind of phones they want to use," Lauria said. "But where there's a big gap between BlackBerry and the competition is in mobile device management (MDM). They're losing on the device side, but I think they have a future in MDM now that their software works on all devices, not just BlackBerry."

PUBLISH MAY 30, 2013