BlackBerry brings business services to iPhone and Android

New BlackBerry service will offer corporate control in bring-your-own-handset environments

Dave Stevenson
14 Mar 2013

A new app from BlackBerry will allow users to securely separate work and personal data on iOS and Android-powered devices.

Secure Work Space will be available before the end of June, and will allow corporate users of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 to handle devices using non-BlackBerry operating systems. The move will encourage business customers to continue to use BlackBerry's services to manage devices on their networks, even if employees use them as both business and as personal devices.

In the ultra-competitive smartphone market, BlackBerry has ceded ground to rivals such as Apple's iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy line and other Android devices. While the BlackBerry Z10 has been lauded by the company as a worthy competitor to both, the six-week old device will take time to start shaving market share from the industry leaders.

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The Z10 comes with Balance, which keeps corporate and personal data separate. It allows IT departments to manage a device's corporate content while ensuring privacy for users, who can store and use personal apps and content on the same phone without corporate oversight.

With Secure Work Space, "we're extending as many of these (Balance) features as possible to other platforms," David Smith, BlackBerry's head of mobile enterprise computing, said in a statement. BlackBerry's move comes as Samsung attempts to make itself more viable for business with features such as Samsung Knox and SAFE, or Samsung for Enterprise.

BlackBerry says Secure Work Space means clients won’t need to configure and manage expensive virtual private network (VPN) infrastructures to give devices access to data and applications behind corporate firewalls. "Secure work space also offers the same end-to-end encryption for data in transit as we have offered on BlackBerry for many years, so there is no need for a VPN," Peter Devenyi, head of enterprise software, said in an interview.

While the new feature hardly gives Apple and Android fans a reason to jump ship hardware-wise, it could help preserve BlackBerry’s revenue from its back-end service business. That business has long been a cash cow because of clients that pay to use its extensive network and security offerings, although the company has said it will reduce those fees during the transition to the BlackBerry 10 platform.

Giving its corporate clients the ability to manage BlackBerry devices, along with Android smartphones and iPhones on their networks may encourage corporate and government clients to continue to pay for and use BlackBerry's device management services.

Last week, Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins said sales of the Z10 had surpassed BlackBerry's expectations in emerging markets such as India, where cheaper entry-level phones are typically popular.

On Wednesday, the company said it had received an order for one million BlackBerry 10 smartphones from an unnamed customer - its largest ever to a single client - and its shares jumped.

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