BlackBerry Offers 'Balance' Function for iOS and Android
BlackBerry needs its business customers if its new platform and devices are to succeed, but many of those business customers are already using Android and iOS devices. On Thursday, the Canadian company announced that it will be offering the secure separation of work and personal data, which is called Balance on its devices, for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.
For these non-BlackBerry devices, the solution is called Secure Work Space for iOS and Android, and it is managed through BlackBerry's mobility management platform, BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10. The additional functionality can be used to separate e-mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, memos, secure browsing and document editing.
David J. Smith, BlackBerry's executive vice president for Enterprise Mobile Computing, said in a statement that Secure Work Space is extending the Balance technology to other platforms, which is "critical in today's 'bring your own device' world." The company said that Secure Work Space is in closed beta testing, and it will be available by the end of the second quarter. BlackBerry has not announced pricing, but the functionality will be available as an update to Enterprise Service 10.
Secure Work Space is designed to save time, because IT departments will not need to configure and manage virtual private network infrastructures in order to provide access to corporate data and apps behind the corporate firewall for devices running Android or iOS.
BlackBerry's Mobile Fusion in BES 10 already supports iOS and Mobile devices. The company has said it might support Windows Phone devices if there is customer demand.
The ability to separate work and business data is also being offered by Samsung for Android devices. Announced last month at the Mobile World Congress and called Knox, it uses technology developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, and is compatible with data management systems and virtual private networking. Users access the Knox container through a home screen icon, which provides the apps.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, said it was "critical for BlackBerry to extend the Balance capability" to iOS and Android devices because "those OSes have made substantial inroads in companies where BlackBerry also has a presence."
He said that BlackBerry's embrace of the two major mobile platforms in its mobile management offering "hints at a potential role for the company" should its market share for BlackBerry devices continue to slide. The BlackBerry company could evolve, Rubin said, "into becoming more of a mobile management provider" that encompasses a variety of OSes.
At present, this multi-denominational approach may not help to extend BlackBerry into companies where it does not already have a presence, he said.
"It's hard to see an enterprise deploying BES 10 unless they already had Blackberry," Rubin added. "The more a company is a BlackBerry shop, the more this makes sense."
But the struggling smartphone maker has received at least one major boost this week. The company announced Wednesday that one of its established partners, which remains nameless, has placed an order for 1 million BlackBerry 10 smartphones -- the largest single order in the company's history. It's not clear yet if the order is for the Z10, the Q10, or both.