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November 12, 2012

RIM reckons it has BYOD cracked with BlackBerry 10

But will the long-delayed BB10 be too little too late?

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Solving the bring your own device (BYOD) puzzle is a difficult task for business. How do you let workers use the devices they want while ensuring the security of the business is not compromised?

It is something many vendors have struggled with. Now however, executives at BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) have told CBR they believe they have cracked it. After a tumultuous 18 months for the company – when its very existence was called into question – it believes its upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system will give users and businesses what they want and need.

Now that RIM has confirmed BlackBerry 10’s release – an event which some had suggested may never even happen – it is keen to get its message out there and as such CBR was given a sneak preview of the new operating system.

RIM has focused on what it calls the user’s "flow" around the device, with the user moving around and between apps rather than "in and out of them," as Paul Baker, director, carrier product management said.

This means that apps are represented by active panes (similar to Microsoft’s current Windows effort) which are made live on the home screen as a user fires it up. The apps (up to eight of them) are left in a "live" state on the home screen, only being pushed off the bottom as more apps are opened up.

BlackBerry 10
The new look home screen

The BB Hub, where a user’s email, notifications, messages and so on are kept, is always available by dragging one’s thumb up from the bottom of the screen and off to the right. RIM is calling this the "peek" feature as it gives users a quick fix for all their notifications.

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BlackBerry 10
The new "peek" feature showing notifications to the left

But what Baker thinks will draw enterprises in is the ability to switch between personal and work accounts on a single device. This is called "BlackBerry Balance", and was actually released in May 2012 but has been given an update for BB10.

The appearance of the screen changes slightly depending on whether the user is in personal or business mode – this is to help the user quickly identify which account is being used, Baker said.

The privacy settings on the corporate side of the device will be set by the business and it can be remotely wiped, without touching the personal side. The user will also see two different App Worlds, with the business side only showing apps approved by the business. The same goes for which sites the user can access and the transfer of files and other data between the two accounts is not possible.

The accounts on the device are kept separate enough that a user can actually download the same app twice. For example the user can have their personal profile running on a Twitter app and then switch to the work account and access a corporate Twitter feed that way.

Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management at RIM, added: "If you look at trends in the industry we look at consumerisation as having a big impact on the mobile space. Organisations are starting to allow BYOD, which is driving mobile adoption and is, in general, a great thing."

"BB10 has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of that trend. That separation of work and personal information has been built-in from the root of the hardware right up throughout the device," he added.

Holleran gave the example of the way the calendar app has been built in. On BB10 the user can see a unified view of the work and personal calendar but retains the option to remove either one from the view.

Holleran also name checked BlackBerry Fusion as another killer enterprise feature. Fusion is RIM’s mobile device management (MDM) suite that lets IT admins run Apple, Android and other mobile platforms alongside its BlackBerry deployment.

From the quick demonstration CBR was given it seems that BB10 is a step forward for RIM, but perhaps fails to deliver that killer touch that will help the company regain some of the market share it has haemorrhaged to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

Are the new features good enough to tempt users into buying a BB10 device and then take it to work? I have my doubts about that. For all its talk about BB10 being great for BYOD it is likely RIM will be relying heavily on businesses buying the devices for workers to use, rather than workers bringing them in and asking IT for support.

But with many businesses now actively installing iPhones ahead of BlackBerry devices, will RIM struggle to win over sceptical enterprises as well? Holleran thinks not and suggests that for all its troubles over the last few years the enterprise space has remained loyal to RIM.

"We’ve still got a strong and growing customer base; we’re seeing growth in both corporate-owned, which is our traditional space, and the enablement of personal BlackBerry devices. We’re in front of enterprise customers on a daily basis and they are so behind us," Holleran said.

"BB10 is a huge event for us and a transition for the company. We’re making huge moves on our overall platform strategy; it’s a giant evolution for RIM," he added.

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