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September 21, 2015

AirWatch EMEA MD: Why I’m not phased by BlackBerry’s Good buy

Ian Evans talks BlackBerry, Apple, and the growing fruits of the enterprise mobility market.

By Alexander Sword

Partnerships, collaboration and acquisitions are the name of the game in the current enterprise mobility market. Despite significant spending on R&D from most parties, sometimes buying a company is the best way to acquire expertise.

BlackBerry’s buy of Good Technology is the biggest such acquisition in this market for some time – the biggest, probably, since VMware bought AirWatch, currently the biggest EMM software vendor according to IDC, in 2014.

Ian Evans, SVP and MD of AirWatch in EMEA, approves of the BlackBerry– Good deal, commenting that it is a positive indicator for the market as a whole.

"From a corporate perspective we’re glad to see this move in the marketplace. We’re seeing consolidation and we’re seeing maturity in the marketplace, and obviously for us that’s a positive signal. BlackBerry certainly has its position in the marketplace and that’s evolved over the last few years."

Evans thinks that the buy should help with BlackBerry‘s long-term strategy.

"I think [BlackBerry has] come from a predominant hardware/secured device background. In the last few years we’ve seen a struggle with them trying to understand how to open up a device portfolio and maybe apply restrictions at the software level so that you get a choice of device and a choice of interaction as well.

"For them and their future, I do think, if they can make this transition into software this being positive for them.

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"I think Good has had a very strong niche in certain vertical markets and I think those are quite complementary to where BlackBerry has been strong in the past.

"While they’ve traditionally competed against each other in the same place, it’s quite complementary for where they’re heading."

However, being overtaken as the largest EMM vendor by market share, according to IDC, does not phase Evans.

"From our position, when you look at our technology stack and our position in the marketplace it’s a slightly different one; we tend to look at the portfolio that covers the end-user computing side, which will be agnostic to device, taking identity all the way through secure channels into the data centre and making sure the data centre is secure as well.

"I think we’ve also had a very open approach to being device agnostic and OS-agnostic as well. Whether that’s a MacBook or a Windows laptop, our position has always been to be the enabler in the technology stack and be integrated to all other technologies as well.

"We’ve worked with Good in the past and worked in deployments with a BlackBerry presence.

"I think this is good for the market. Nobody wants a market of one; that wouldn’t be an exciting place at all.

Regardless of the battles between the vendors, enterprise mobility software is of course dependent on another key stakeholder – the device vendors.

Evans comments on the recent Apple event:

"There is a good space for the Pro tablet. We’ve seen that with Samsung with their Note 10 devices. If I was going to be designing something, rendering in 3D for an oil rig design, I wouldn’t want a mini 6-inch device, I’d want a 12-inch HD screen and I’d want a stylus.

"I think the stylus is something we moved away from in the last few years and now it’s coming back in the Pro tablet. I actually think the stylus is a good way of controlling devices in the right environment.

"I also liked what Apple had to do with iOS 9; I think that was a good, progressive step for the operating system. There’re some great APIs coming out in iOS 9 that will be under MDM control. I liked the 3D touch features.

"I think we’re now starting to see how touch-screens really are evolving into gesturing. With pressure-sensitive screens, to be able to use pinch and zoom, point, pressure, now starts to make it more intuitive to the user.

"The next issue then is making sure that when you’re interacting between apps that you have control of corporate data staying corporate and private data staying private."

Evans says that Apple has been on a journey to become an enterprise company.

"There are enough controls now for Apple to stand its own ground in the enterprise, and we’ve seen that in such a high number of companies that are requiring that sort of controls.

"In some ways I think Apple was always aiming for its enterprise space. But I think it came more from its designer background in terms of graphics design and graphics rendering and that end of the business than it did from the desktop or hedge fund trading aspect.

"I just think it came into the market from a different angle."

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