Friday Notebook, June 29: BlackBerry buzz; Gartner on Access Management

Also: RDmi; Ping acquires Elastic Beam; Citrix Workspace App; MobileIron Authenticator; iOS security; and machine learning.

This is our weekly log of desktop virtualization, enterprise mobility, and end user computing news.

Our blog posts

Benny Tritsch and Kristin Griffin: RDmi is a milestone for the future of RDS. Here’s how it works. (19 comments.) Microsoft RDmi remains in private Technical Preview, so while we wait for a public release, let’s review the current facts around it.

Jack: Identiverse 2018: Ping Identity acquires Elastic Beam, provider of AI-based API security. Elastic Beam monitors and audits API activity, then through machine learning, it identifies attacks and other anomalous behavior. The new Ping products with Elastic Beam will be called PingIntelligence for APIs.

Jack: MobileIron built an authenticator app to go with MobileIron Access. MobileIron announced this week the release of MobileIron Authenticator, which is a free multi-factor authentication app added to Access.

Jo Harder: Citrix Workspace App: What’s in the cloud & what’s on the client side? (1 comment.) Since Citrix announced Workspace App at Synergy 2018, it’s been confusing everyone. Let’s try and clear it up for you.

Kyle: GeekOut 365 video: Use WhatMatrix for comparing GPUs for your environment. TeamRGE shows off a new WhatMatrix comparison page that examines GPUs in granular detail.

Industry news, BlackBerry edition

There’s lots of BlackBerry news this week:

BlackBerry’s fiscal year 2019 Q1 earnings came out last Friday. There’s some confusion because they’re moving to a new accounting standard called ASC 606, but enterprise software and services (i.e., EMM) revenue for the quarter was not the greatest, at $79 million, down from $92 million in Q1 of FY18, going by GAAP numbers in their presentation [PDF]. Or, to quote their earnings call, “On a apples-to-apples comparison under ASC 606, revenue declined 11% year-over-year.” This is a departure from their good enterprise software growth from FY16 to FY18. Regarding future guidance, things are again complicated thanks to the accounting changes. This year won’t look great, but CEO John Chen said, “you will see a trend up a year after for sure” and “we feel good with where we are.”

TCL, a Chinese company that licenses the trademark and some technology from BlackBerry, launched the BlackBerry KEY2. (Take your pick of reviews to learn more.) It runs Android with BlackBerry’s security enhancements, it’s branded as a BlackBerry, and it has a physical keyboard. Reviews are positive to mixed—obviously the keyboard is attractive to some users, but it means the screen is smaller, and some of the specs are more midrange than high-end. I think the licensing strategy is fine, and at their analyst day, BlackBerry did a good job of distancing themselves from their handset past. However, one issue is that many reviews of the KEY2 neglect to mention that it’s made by TCL, and not BlackBerry—a negative review could hurt BlackBerry, when really, it’s a TCL thing.

BlackBerry issued a press release detailing a renewed partnership with Samsung Knox, but it’s not clear what’s actually going to be new and/or exclusive. One of the first results of this partnership sounds a lot like BlackBerry support for Knox Mobile Enrollment. I sent some questions over to BlackBerry for clarification, so I’ll update when I hear back.

Update, 9:30am PT, Monday 2 July 2018: The BlackBerry and Samsung PR teams responded with answers to my questions.

  • First off, I was wrong about my speculation—BlackBerry already supports Knox Mobile Enrollment. Instead, the example mentioned in the press release refers to “enhanced integration” for Samsung DeX (which is the ability to dock some Galaxy devices and use them with a monitor/mouse/keyboard).
  • There will be other net new integrations, but they’re not ready to give details. They did mention that “New integrations will focus on new endpoint devices that can be enabled for EoT [Enterprise of Things] deployments.” (EoT is BlackBerry’s broad term for IoT and many other technology areas.)
  • The Samsung team noted that Knox is available to all EMM partners, and does not offer any proprietary integrations, including with BlackBerry. (I assumed that this was the case.)
  • Overall, this is both a technical partnership and a business and marketing partnership. BlackBerry said that it "covers activities across multiple areas: technical & products, improved QA and testing, enhanced customer support, and also joint marketing and customer activities.”

While I would have liked to dig into technical details a bit more, the extension and expansion of the partnership between Samsung and BlackBerry (which is already a few years old) sounds like good news for all involved. Government and high-security customers will be able to buy the most commonly-trusted Android phones, and know that they're well supported by the BlackBerry/former Good Technology EMM stack that they have been using for years.

Other industry news

Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for Access Management is out. (Just Google around for a free copy in exchange for your contact information.) No surprise, Okta and Azure AD take the top spots, but I did notice that VMware Identity Manager (i.e., Workspace One) didn't get a mention at all. I’m guessing that they missed on some of the inclusion criteria, but the report didn’t give any specifics about this.

In iOS security, Motherboard is reporting that Grayshift claims that GrayKey will be able to get past the upcoming USB restricted mode, but this may be a bluff. (More background from here and here.) Via ZDNet, another researcher claims to have found a way to brute force passcodes, but Apple is pushing back on the claim.

Lastly, I’m a big fan of Benedict Evans’ blog and newsletter, and his latest post, "Ways to think about machine learning," is another good foundational piece. I won’t try to summarize it, other than to say it breaks the hype down into core elements. It should be required reading before any conversation about AI or ML, so just read it. (Also, the linked piece on ML and edge computing is super interesting, especially if you like to read about computer engineering.)

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