BlackBerry acquisition lets cellphones have office, personal phone numbers

One of the problems CIOs face in crafting a wireless strategy is how to deal with employees using smart phones for corporate purposes.

Should it supply the handset and pay the bills, should it let the users supply their own devices, how to deal with the fact that staff want the device for both corporate and private purposes?

One solution is find a device that has a container allowing corporate apps to be segregated from personal. But that doesn’t deal with the logistics in separating and compensating staff for only their business calls. Smart phones with two SIM cards are available, but largely in Europe.

Users pick phone number from list
Users pick phone number from list

BlackBerry’s answer is to buy a British startup called Movirtu, which allows wireless carriers to offer business the ability to have multiple phone numbers on one device through a virtual SIM platform. As a result, users can get separate billing for voice, data and messaging.

Movirtu has several products: WorkLife, which lets operators offer enterprises the ability to have two phones numbers on a devices; ManyMe, which lets  multiple phone numbers be assigned to a single phone; and CloudPhone, which enables calls over Wi-Fi from tablets and laptops without a SIM card.

It works on all platforms, which for BlackBerry [TSX:BB] is convenient because it is promoting its BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) device management platform as covering Android and iOS devices in addition to BlackBerrys.

For enterprises, it promises to ease billing headaches; for carriers– and BlackBerry — it promises to be an additional revenue stream.

But before you get too excited, remember that carriers have to sign on for the service. No Canadian operator yet offers Movirtu.

“In general this is the kind of acquisition that Blackberry has to do to assure their leadership in the professional smart phone space,” industry analyst Rob Enderle said in an email.  “It adds to their differentiable advantage in security and business focus because it provides a feature that creates a stronger separation between business and personal use on the same device than others.”

“In a BYOD (bring your own device) and COPE (corporately-owned, personally enabled ) world, there remain a number of efficiency and convenience challenges facing enterprises, employees and mobile operators alike,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen said in a statement. “The acquisition of Movirtu complements our core strategy of providing additional value added services, and it will leverage our key assets, including our BES platform, along with our existing global infrastructure which is connected to a large number of mobile operators around the world.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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