RIM: BlackBerry 10 Administration Tools Don’t Exist On Any Other Platform

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BlackBerry 10 will appeal to both the consumer and the enterprise, RIM’s Jeff Holleran tells TechWeekEurope

When the first devices running BlackBerry 10 arrive on 30 January, will the much-delayed operating system be enough to revive the flagging fortunes of RIM? The once-mighty company clearly thinks it has time for a turnaround, so we pinned down a senior executive to find out why.

Once considered the king of smartphone manufacturers, RIM has suffered as consumers grow disillusioned with its dated devices and enterprises reduce their reliance on BlackBerry as rival platforms close the gap in security and administration tools.

Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise products at RIM, told TechWeekEurope that BlackBerry 10 will appeal to both consumers and the enterprise, bridging the divide between business and pleasure.

BlackBerry 10 enterprise features

“Enterprises are opening up mobility to more people,” said Holleran. “People are beginning to start thinking of mobility as a far more strategic thing for them as an organisation and not just to mobilise themselves, but to create mobile applications. It’s a great opportunity as we look at an expanding market.”

Holleran promised administrators “a set of tools that don’t exist on any other platform,” and would make it easier for developers to write security and connectivity into their applications, by placing them behind the firewall with full access to end users.

“When you connect that BlackBerry device to our server that sits behind the firewall, the firewall is actually extended to encompass that device as well,” he explained. “That’s different from any other mobile platform that’s out there today.”

RIM hopes that its range of security and administration tools will give it an advantage over iOS and Android and ensure it retains customers like the US government, which have recently invited other platforms to compete for contracts.

BlackBerry balancing act

One of the key criticisms of BlackBerry is that it is too restrictive for end users. It allows IT managers to block many features that could be a security risk – then users are upset because they cannot use favourite features (like Facebook) that they see on other platforms.  To address this, RIM has made BlackBerry Balance an integral part of BlackBerry 10 and allows users to effectively choose between two profiles – personal and work.

“The default response of an IT manager is if there’s a knob or a dial, they’re going to turn it, tweak it and exercise that control whenever possible,” said Holleran. “That’s what really helped us architect BlackBerry Balance.”

Administrators will be able to create private application stores that host custom apps as well as software from the public BlackBerry App World that has been approved for use in the workspace. Once approved, these applications can interact with other work apps and secure data.

Personal and work data is kept entirely separate and once users have disconnected from a secure network, the device returns to the same state it was prior to the connection. This allows users to have a fully functioning smartphone while ensuring that they don’t paste confidential data as a Facebook status.

Is all change good?

BlackBerry Balance is a key component of RIM’s strategy to appeal to the consumer as well as the enterprise. BlackBerry 10 boasts a large array of games, apps and support for media content as well as what RIM claims is the best HTML5-compatibile browser in the world.

BlackBerry Balance doesn’t even appear as an option until it is connected to a Blackberry Enterprise Service 10 server, meaning that RIM is positioning BlackBerry 10 as a full-on consumer device.

It remains unclear just how many BlackBerry 10 smartphones will be available at launch, but Holleran confirmed that there would be at least one all-touch device and one keyboard-based device. The BlackBerry keyboard has remained a favourite feature amongst its hard-core users, even while a touchscreen device has become an essential. One of the most frequently asked questions about the platform was whether there would be a smartphone with a physical keyboard – he believes that supporting both modes will ensure that people are not scared off.

“If we look at the operating system and the experience to an end-user, it is a very big set of changes, but it’s a very intuitive experience, just as BlackBerry was when people picked it up, “said Holleran.

“There are a lot of inherent capabilities with BlackBerry that you just won’t see with another platform,” he added. “We build the solution end-to-end from the ground up and we can build these things in at every level of the experience.”

What do you know about BlackBerrys? Find out with our quiz!