Friday, 15 March 2013

BlackBerry plans security feature for Android, iPhone platforms

BlackBerry will offer technology to separate and secure work and personal data on mobile devices powered by Google Inc's Android platform and Apple Inc's iOS operating system, the company said on Thursday.

The new Secure Work Space feature will be available before the end of June will be managed through BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, the platform that allows BlackBerry's corporate and government clients to handle devices using different operating systems on their networks.

The move will encourage large customers to continue to use BlackBerry's services to manage devices on their networks, even as employees use them for their personal devices, which could create security breaches.

In the ultra-competitive smartphone market, BlackBerry has ceded ground to rivals like Apple's iPhone, Samsung Electronics Co's Galaxy line and other devices based on the Android operating system.

To regain market share and return to profitability, BlackBerry introduced a new line of smartphones powered by its BlackBerry 10 operating system earlier this year. The touch screen version, dubbed the Z10, is on sale in more than 20 countries, while a device called the Q10 with a physical keyboard will be available in April.

The new devices have Balance, a feature that keeps corporate and personal data separate. It allows information technology departments to manage the corporate content on a device, 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, whose Galaxy devices have gained great popularity, attempts to make itself a more viable option for business customers with security features such as Samsung Knox and SAFE, or Samsung for Enterprise.

BlackBerry said Secure Work Space meant clients would not need to configure and manage expensive virtual private network (VPN) infrastructures that give the devices access to data and applications that reside 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.

The new feature could also help stave-off declines in service revenue. That business has long been a cash cow for BlackBerry because of the large clients that pay to utilize its extensive network and security offerings.

However, the company has been under pressure to reduce its infrastructure access fees. Late last year, it said it would do so during the transition to the BlackBerry 10 platform.

As a result of the changes, BlackBerry's service revenue is expected to decline.

Giving its large array of 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.

BlackBerry plans to report quarterly results on March 28.

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

On Wednesday, the company said it had received an order for 1 million BlackBerry 10 smartphones - its largest ever to a single customer, and its shares jumped.

BlackBerry's volatile stock closed up 8.2 percent at $15.65 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, while its Toronto-listed shares rose by a similar margin to C$16.04.

Shares of BlackBerry were up a further 0.4 percent at $16.71 in trading before the morning bell on Thursday in the United States.


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