BlackBerry has confirmed that it will refocus on the enterprise as it looks to recover from declining sales of its handsets, but the firm also has an eye on opportunities around the Internet of Things with its QNX real-time operating system.
Speaking at the BlackBerry Experience event in London, BlackBerry's managing director for Europe, Markus Mueller, told an audience of customers that the firm is "re-pivoting to the enterprise" with its strategy, building on the existing security and management capabilities in its BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES).
"Enterprise is our heritage. That's where security matters, and that's where trust matters," he said, conceding that BlackBerry had lost some of its focus in previous years in order to pursue the consumer smartphone market.
However, the firm is now "returning to its roots" and will "re-establish its leadership", he said, with more features and broader enterprise support, such as opening its APIs to other mobile management vendors and the addition of Windows Phone support in BES 12.
Mueller said that BlackBerry's strategy will comprise three parts: supporting enterprise mobility; enabling productivity; and in the future expanding into the Internet of Things through its QNX platform, which already underpins the BlackBerry 10 operating system in the firm's smartphones.
Mueller also told the audience that if you listened to many of the press reports over the past year or so "you would have thought that BlackBerry was finished", but that customers using BlackBerry technology know better than this.
He pointed to the security benefits of using BlackBerry for an organisation's enterprise mobility management solution, quoting figures showing that the average cost of a data breach to firms in the US during 2012 was $5.4m.
However, he also claimed that budget constraints have proved one of the biggest barriers to greater adoption of mobile technology in the enterprise, but that BlackBerry's platform is the most cost-effective solution on the market.
This was backed up by customers lined up for a panel discussion at the event. Alastair Lang, service delivery manager at Cordia, which provides home care services for Glasgow City Council, said his firm had evaluated rival platforms but those that offered similar capabilities were "almost double the cost of BlackBerry in some cases".
Referring to the bring your own device (BYOD) trend of the past few years, Mueller said that this had often not lived up to expectations.
"The idea was to save money while giving more choice to users, but what actually happened is that it became a nightmare, with lots of different devices with different versions of iOS and Android finding their way into organisations. It actually created more cost," he said.
BlackBerry instead sees organisations following a corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) model, but said it still intends to enable BYOD as well as support customers with fully restricted environments.
"What we're trying to do is solve all of those use cases," Mueller said.
He cited Mercedes as one customer where executives are restricted to corporate-liable devices, most users can pick from a restricted choice of devices under COPE, and a smaller number are allowed BYOD for limited access just to email, for example.
With BES 12 and beyond, BlackBerry is aiming to deliver a full, cross-platform mobility platform, according to Mueller.
"We started out with email and PIM capabilities, but we are moving up the stack in terms of securing not only email but other apps, app management and app security," he said, adding: "We want to become the single trusted provider for enterprise mobility."
Meanwhile, BlackBerry is also looking beyond smartphones, and has an eye on the potentially huge market for devices with the Internet of Things.
"Over the next 10 years, the number of connected devices will grow massively, with estimates ranging from more than 50 billion to more than a trillion," Mueller said.
QNX, which BlackBerry acquired in 2010, is already a widely deployed embedded platform in the automotive, healthcare and security markets, thanks to its robust real-time capabilities.
BlackBerry is now looking to expand its reach into consumer devices such as connected appliances, but also retail environments and so-called smart city schemes. The firm last month announced an initiative called Project Ion to drive QNX for the Internet of Things.
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