BlackBerry warns competitors it’s fighting back

When John Chen took over as executive chair and CEO of financially-troubled BlackBerry exactly a year ago, he decided the company had to focus more on serving enterprise customers.

Today as part of detailing its enterprise strategy the company released the latest version of its BES server, new features aimed at enterprises and a marketing campaign that hammers the message that BlackBerry solutions make enterprise communications more secure. It also said the BlackBerry Classic, a handset with a physical keyboard and a trackpad from earlier models  running the new BB10 operating system, will be available Dec. 17.

Chen also warned mobile and enterprise device management competitors who he says made fun of BlackBerry’s falling sales a year ago that his company is coming back.

“Today my advice to them is I’m ending their party,” he told analysts and reporters in San Francisco. “We are not only a point product, not only an MDM solution provider, we’re an EMM  solution provider – very broad, very deep, and they need to understand that  So they’re going to have to work for their living rather than have fun on us.”

As evidence of its willingness to fight back for market share the company announced a partnership with a handset maker and new applications for bringing in more revenue. These include

–a partnership with Samsung Electronics, which early next year will see BES 12 include the ability to manage its Android-based Galaxy handsets and tablets with Samsung’s Knox security features. BES already lets administrators oversee Apple iOS and Android devices. With this partnership Samsung hopes BES enterprises will favour its devices if they allow staff to use Android units.

Knox is a container solution that manages and secures business data and protects the OS kernel from attack. Samsung also sells a cloud-based mobile device management service.

As part of the pact Samsung will resell BES 12 to joint enterprise customers, and BlackBerry will offer Knox as part of the Gold family of BES12 subscriptions. Pricing was not announced.

In an email Forrester Research analyst Tyler Shields said the partnership helps both companies. “By aligning themselves with a leading Android based hardware vendor such as Samsung, Blackberry is publicly declaring that they are no longer going to be fully reliant upon hardware for the success of their company,” he wrote.

— Enterprise Identity for BES12, for managing enterprise-approved cloud services. Staff will only need a single sign on to access any cloud application. When released next month it uses open standards and will come with a number of pre-federated services;

–VPN Authentication, which will allow BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices managed under BES12 to user their devices alone for two-factor authentication. As a result users won’t have to carry key fobs that generate digits needed for extra authentication to log into secure web sites. It leverages a staffer’s existing corporate credentials for logging into a notebook/desktop computer, then sends a request to confirm ID on the company managed mobile device. The company authentication server stays on premise and not in cloud.

Pricing starts at US$3 a user;

— WorkLife, which allows enterprises to add a second phone line to BES12 managed devices so staff can have one for personal use and the other for corporate use and billing for voice, SMS and data. Users can easily toggle between the two, BlackBerry says, by touching a suitcase (work) or football (personal) icon. The idea is to make corporate telecom billing easier;

—-BlackBerry [TSX: BB] is trying to monetize its popular BBM messaging service and has already announced services such as BBM Protected. Soon there will another: BBM Meetings, which will allow BlackBerry, iOS or Android BMM users to turn any chat into a collaborative session. The service links to device contacts and calendars.

Users will be able to schedule, start a meeting or join a meeting in progress, mute participants or kick someone out. Through Autojoin, a person can be included in a meeting by answering the phone. The idea is to make online meetings on a mobile device as easy as it is on a desktop. Not only is there a Meetings app for mobile devices, there are also ones for Windows and Mac desktop computers.

“We believe BBM Meetings will dramatically change the way people collaborate from a mobile-first perspective,” said Jeff Gadway, BlackBerry’s director of product marketing.

Separately, the company said BBM Protected will also be available for managed Android and iOS devices.

Finally, BlackBerry announced a partnership with Salesforce to improve security for users of the cloud customer relationship application. No details were given. The companies are working on a pilot project to address “some of the challenges our customers face.”

BlackBerry said the Salesforce and Samsung deals are an example of the enterprise ecosystem it is building.

Chen said his goal is to double BlackBerry’s software revenue in the next fiscal year, which starts in the spring.

Forrester’s Shields said the new security and software initiatives show BlackBerry is making a clear transition from its days as a device manufacturer. The announcements “will certainly help Blackberry sell additional software and services. Their market share of EMM hasn’t eroded beyond repair. In the EMM market the future is with security and user experience. Blackberry has nailed security … now they just need to nail user experience and they will become a contender for the enterprise mobile security dollar.”

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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