In a significant milestone, last Thursday BlackBerry announced that they have completed the integration of their EMM products, including BES12, Good Technology (acquired in September 2015), and WatchDox (acquired in April 2015). First let’s look at the actual news; then we’ll get to my commentary.
BlackBerry’s EMM product family is now called BlackBerry Secure. Here’s an overview of what’s actually integrated:
- BlackBerry Unified Endpoint Management (UEM), formerly BES12: Mobile device management for iOS, Android (including Android for Work and Samsung Knox), macOS, Windows 10, and BB10.
- BlackBerry Dynamics, formerly Good Dynamics: App-level MAM technology, including an SDK and app development platform functionality. (In lieu of app wrapping, BlackBerry is partnering with AppDome to integrate SDKs automatically.)
- BlackBerry WorkSpaces, formerly WatchDox: Enterprise file sync and share and file-level DRM.
- BlackBerry apps, formerly Good apps: Including BlackBerry Work (email client), Access (browser), Connect (instant messaging), Share (file management and sharing), Tasks, and Notes. BlackBerry Access and Work are also available for Windows and macOS.
- BlackBerry Enterprise Identity and 2FA, formerly BlackBerry Strong Authentication: Identity management and federation.
BlackBerry UEM will serve as the unified management console and server for all of the above products. It will be available on-premises or in the cloud, and it will be extensible and offer an SDK.
All these components came together as part of an integration process that John Herrema described to me back in August. (John lead the products at Good for years, and now he leads the combined EMM products at BlackBerry.) The end user-facing and administrator experiences were unified earlier this year; the final step will be unifying the BlackBerry and Good NOC infrastructures.
The new platform will be generally available on January 10. It will come in five different SKUs called the BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Suites (formerly known as the Good Secure EMM Suites).
BlackBerry mentioned several other products will also fall under the BlackBerry Secure umbrella, but they didn’t say if, when, and how these other products would be technically integrated. These include:
As I said in the introduction, this release is a milestone in BlackBerry’s EMM journey. Congratulations are in order for the product teams that put this together.
As the integration was the focus of 2016, 2017 should be about reintroducing their EMM products to the enterprise. There’s a lot of potential here, and even though it’s almost 2017, plenty of space in the market. To really do this, though, they need to look hard at their marketing message.
Let me preface my thoughts by saying that this comes from a place of wanting the mobile and cloud era of end user computing to be awesome, not from wanting to write BlackBerry-slamming clickbait. I can appreciate that they’re in a tough position. Yes, they were late to react to the iPhone and Android and fully embrace modern EMM, but they’re also in the unenviable and sometimes unfair position of having every move be scrutinized to an excessive degree.
Having said that, after following the EMM industry closely for over 5 years, I think BlackBerry’s marketing efforts and the way they engage with the enterprise could be a lot better, and that some of their previous actions haven’t done themselves any favors. For example:
- Last week’s announcement was a big deal to enterprise customers and the EMM industry, but BlackBerry’s press release and press conference call was aimed at general, non-IT media. They said to the world: “Here’s more evidence of how we’re a software and services company now, not a hardware company, and by the way we’re focusing on the future with IoT.” That’s an important message to get to the likes of the Wall Street Journal, but this doesn’t say much to the enterprise IT pros that are figuring out how deal with mobility and cloud apps.
- A lot of their past messages have been super awkward. From overly-defensive blog posts, to their fact-check series that takes cringe-inducing swipes at competitors, to the time they called for “app neutrality” regulations to force developers to make BB10 apps in addition to iOS and Android, their public image has come off as less than graceful.
- There are way too many confusing product names floating around: There’s BlackBerry Secure (which is not one bit descriptive considering that all their products involve security); BlackBerry UEM (getting better); BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Suites (too similar to Microsoft EMS); and Good and BES (since it’s going to be a while before people stop using these terms).
- Finally, the soap opera of what’s happening to BlackBerry devices hurts them in a few ways. It’s bad publicity, especially because it’s so confusing. The evolution has come in fits and starts, with various announcements being walked back, contradicted, or requiring extensive clarification. Is it the end of BlackBerry devices? No? What about BB10 or physical keyboards? This is just asking for misinterpretation.
- BlackBerry hardware also creates a conflict of interest with EMM software: Which devices are most appropriate for government and regulated industries? BB10? Samsung Knox (in a partnership that started in 2014)? BlackBerry Android? Any device that can run Good Dynamics apps? Future BlackBerry devices made by partners? When blog posts about how great their MAM for iOS and Android is appear next to a posts about how the DTEK60 is such a secure enterprise phone, that’s a mixed message and a conflict that’s been getting in the way ever since BlackBerry Fusion came out in 2012.
Here’s what I would like to see BlackBerry do to correct these issues:
- Engage with enterprise IT in a direct and honest way. Their IT related blog hasn’t been updated since August for some reason (though their main blog stands). Put forth some fresh, technical content and evangelism.
- Keep the EMM marketing efforts and blogs separate from other divisions, especially from all the phone hardware drama.
- Maybe take another stab at the branding. It’s not too late. My facetious suggestion is that they just call it all GoodBerry EMM and leave it at that. (Or maybe that’s serious suggestion. Let’s see if it catches on.)
So to BlackBerry: Congratulations on the release. Take this as an opportunity for a fresh start. Best wishes for 2017!