As you may (or may not) know, BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (the current version of BlackBerry’s management platform) can provide mobile device and mobile app management for iOS and Android. Since BlackBerry has been entrenched in the enterprise mobility space for over a decade, they could be huge in the cross platform EMM space—however, it remains to be seen if they’ll make all the right moves to make this happen.
In case you’re not up to speed, it was about a year ago that BlackBerry introduced MDM capabilities for iOS and Android. Just a few weeks ago, they released an update that includes mobile app management capabilities, including a suite of apps and and app wrapping tool.
We can look at their iOS and Android capabilities and think they’re a little bit late to the game, and that may be true to some degree. For some perspective, though, I think it’s interesting to look back at their previous cross-platform support.
Previous cross-platform support
BlackBerry (or of course at the time Research in Motion) actually started supporting non-BlackBerry platforms all the way back in 2003 when it announced BlackBerry Connect, an email application that allowed Palm OS, Symbian, and Windows Mobile devices to work with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. BlackBerry had to play nice at the time, because they certainly weren’t the only game in town—Symbian was huge, especially outside of the US, and Windows Mobile devices were popular as well, reaching their peak market share in 2007.
In fact, from the annals of interesting products that never came to be, in 2007 BlackBerry even announced something called the Virtual BlackBerry Experience, a type of virtual machine/emulator (details are scarce) that allowed a BlackBerry OS and suite of apps to run on Windows Mobile phones. This was never released.
Then the iPhone came along in 2007, but at first not much changed for BlackBerry—after all, many people considered the iPhone to be merely a consumer phone, or a glorified mp3 player. Why worry about it? And even if they wanted to support it, they couldn’t have: Apple didn’t allow any third-party email apps on the iPhone until late 2009, so BlackBerry Connect wouldn’t have been allowed. And finally, BlackBerry’s market share continued to grow through the first years of the Phone's existence, reading its peak in 2009. During the same period, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry’s older rival in the enterprise smartphone space, was declining rapidly.
But then we know what happened next. The iPhone and Android continued to rise in popularity, and the advent of MDM as we know it in 2010 also made them much more acceptable in the enterprise. Soon BlackBerry’s market share started declined rapidly, but they appeared to be in serious denial about it.
Back in present day
Fast forward to 2013. BlackBerry’s next generation of devices are out, and they’re acknowledging iOS and Android. So now what?
While older BlackBerry devices couldn’t compete with iOS and Android at all, BlackBerry 10 is actually pretty decent. They even did a great job at responding to the needs of corporate management with BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10. Unfortunately, we know that with the limited app ecosystem and being about 5 years too late, BlackBerry 10 phones are stuck battling Windows Phone 8 for a very distant 3rd place behind Android and iOS.
But I’m not here to talk about BlackBerry 10 or the Z10 phone. I want to talk about BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 and its support of MDM and MAM on Android and iOS. BES 10 is certainly a few years behind for MDM and about a year behind MAM, but since the current incarnation of the EMM space is so new, it could be anyone’s game—including BlackBerry. Here’s why:
- When people think of “secure enterprise mobility” they still think of BlackBerry.
- More and more people are waking up to the idea that they need to do secure, enable, manage, or something about the iOS and Android devices in their environments.
- People love iPhones and Android (Of course!)
- In a recent TechTarget survey of over 900 IT pros worldwide, about half reported still having BlackBerry Enterprise Server in their environment.
Hello huge opportunity! BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 supports these devices! BlackBerry’s cross-platform EMM may not be the best of breed but it’s up there with the others. The MDM component supports iOS and the core version of Android (but not OEM APIs like Samsung SAFE.) The mobile app management components are white labeled versions of OpenPeak, but with extensive modifications so that it can be managed from the unified BES 10 platform and take advantage of the existing BlackBerry infrastructure. They offer a PIM client app, a mobile browser, document editing with Documents To Go, an app wrapping tool, and they’ve announced partnerships with Splashtop, Harmon.ie, and Box.
Unfortunately all indications are that BlackBerry isn’t making the best of this opportunity. So much of their marketing seems focused on BlackBerry 10 devices—and that’s only natural. After all, while they have this big opportunity in the cross platform EMM space, it’s still likely far smaller than what their phone and mobile OS business once was (and what they’d like it to be again.)
But still, there are some missed opportunities. A while ago I learned that BlackBerry was offering a licence trade in program where you could trade in CALs for older BlackBerry devices for newer CALs—I thought it was brilliant! But then my bubble burst when I learned that the CAL trade-in program only applied to BlackBerry 10 devices, not iOS and Android. This is too bad, because if all of their CALs worked for iOS and Android, that’d be awesome. (And in fact all of their CALs are per-device only, not per user, which I think is completely out of line consumerization and BYOD.)
Again, going from being a huge phone and mobile OS maker to being just a cross-platform EMM vendor is a painful change, and so of course they want to protect the former business. But the reality is that BlackBerry 10 devices indeed trail far behind Android and iOS. At the same time there’s a huge opportunity for BlackBerry in the cross-platform EMM space, for all those reasons outlined in the bullet list above. They need to act quickly to take advantage of it.