BlackBerry combines Cylance, Awingu, browsing, and offline doc editing/email into BYO laptop bundle

BlackBerry’s secure browser and email for the desktop is evolving into a full workspace (or workplace, as it is) offering.

Today, BlackBerry is announcing a new offering that combines BlackBerry Desktop, Cylance, and Awingu into the BlackBerry Digital Workplace bundle, with several integration points.

BlackBerry Desktop, formerly known as BlackBerry Access for Windows and Mac, is a secure containerized browser and email client for use on unmanaged desktops and laptops. I’ve been interested in this concept for years, and Good Technology, now part of BlackBerry, was one of the first vendors to bring this to market.

With BlackBerry's recent moves acquiring Cylance and partnering with Awingu, it was only a matter of time before they would bring all of these together. First, I’ll talk about the concept behind this, and then I’ll run down the components.

Why a secured container on the desktop?

No, we’re not talking about a Linux container. Rather, this is the concept that became most prominent with mobile app management products, so you can see why I like it so much.

You take an email client, a browser, and other apps, and then build encryption, data sharing controls, secure connectivity, remote wipe, and other management features directly into the app packages themselves, separating the corporate data from the endpoint. Of course, you could do this with a remote desktop client, but by using a local browser, you avoid the need to do RDSH or VDI.

These containerized desktop apps are good for anywhere you can’t control the device, such as contractors, partners, home access, and M&A activity. BlackBerry is targeting all of these use cases. BlackBerry also does MDM for desktops, but that’s generally for different use cases. 

Secure browsing and email can be components of the workspace aggregation concept that we’ve been talking about for years, along with access to SaaS apps, remote apps, mobile apps, files, and other resources.

What's in the BlackBerry Digital Workplace bundle?

The BlackBerry Digital Workplace bundle is one SKU, containing three products. There are places where customers will have to do some separate administrative and setup tasks, but there are several integration points that the bundle takes advantage of. More importantly, users can get everything they need all in one place.

As mentioned, the core of the bundle is BlackBerry Desktop, for browsing, email, calendars, and contacts. Everything is encrypted in the secure enclave, and network connectivity is taken care of via BlackBerry UEM. If you’re already using BlackBerry UEM, this is just another type of client that you can turn on and plug in. As I wrote recently, BlackBerry UEM is getting more conditional access features: it can take in data from Cylance, plus they’re adding user behavior analytics.

BlackBerry Desktop is based on Chromium, so the browsing experience is pretty standard. Over the last year, BlackBerry has added support for offline email and document editing (by OEMing SmartOffice). They’ve refined the experience a bit, too—users can pop out compose and reply windows, and they removed the BlackBerry launcher button, which was more of a mobile thing.

Next, there’s the Cylance part. BlackBerry Cylance is administered through its own cloud console, but they’ve integrated the installers for CylancePROTECT and BlackBerry Desktop, so there’s only one thing for users to download. Admins can set policies to determine whether or not the Cylance agent is installed, based on what antivirus products may or may not already be present.

Awingu provides additional workspace aggregation capabilities, with an app launching interface for web and virtual apps. They have their own RDP to HTML5 conversion services; several authentication, federation, and single sign-on options; and support for Sharepoint, OneDrive, and traditional file server access. Awingu is packaged as a virtual server that customers can install in the cloud or behind their firewall.

What does this add up to?

The end result is a single workspace app that’s not too far off from other workspace apps we’ve covered. (Do note that BlackBerry is calling this the Digital Workplace bundle; BlackBerry Workspaces is an enterprise file sync and share product, which came from their acquisition of WatchDox.)

The user just installs one app, then they can authenticate and get SSO and secure connectivity without needing to start a VPN session. Users see a familiar interface for browsing, with icons next to the address bar for mail, calendar, contacts, and the Awingu page, where they can access all the rest of their apps and data.

The built-in email and document editing clients don’t quite look like they have the fullest desktop experience, but these days many users will have access to Office 365 web apps if they need something richer, or, depending on the use case, customers could always publish the full desktop versions using RDSH.

For BlackBerry customers, the Digital Workplace bundle aggregates more components into the end user workspace, which is a good move in line with industry trends.

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