updated 10:47 pm EST, Mon February 4, 2013
Switcher interest in new BB smartphones said to be 'surprising'
Sensing a change in the corporate marketplace since they last ruled the roost, BlackBerry today announced the first app for iOS and Android based on a feature of their BlackBerry 10 platform called "Work Space." The app essentially allows smartphone owners to "split" their device into two profiles: a group of apps for personal use, and a group for work that can be administered remotely without interfering with the personal "side." By keeping the two sets of data separate, the solution is marketed as promoting user security.
The program (or at least the concept behind it) is likely to be popular with employees who are part of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement that has swept corporate IT since the introduction of the more recent models of iPhone and Android smartphones. Modern devices offer enterprise-level management and security features built-in in much the same way BlackBerry models did. For example, a phone using Workspace could be "wiped" and restored to protect or reinstall business data but leave all the personal apps and data untouched, or could optionally be set to erase the entire phone in the event of it being stolen or lost.
The program allows IT administrators to set up a secure work environment on other phone platforms beyond its own, further enhancing the use of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (the company's real moneymaker) for corporate management of employee mobile devices. BlackBerry is counting on its reputation for enterprise-friendliness and corporate security to reawaken interest in the struggling company and its comeback into the modern smartphone environment, enthusiast site CrackBerry reports.
A dubious report from a Canadian banking analyst claims that up to half of all Canadian pre-orders of the new BlackBerry Z10 handset come from users who are not current BlackBerry customers -- a hopeful sign that perhaps the company can engage consumer interest in the now-faded brand. Even if true, it's likely that most of the unspecified number of pre-orders are from those who were formerly BlackBerry enthusiasts and are hoping to help with a comeback -- or are unsatisfied for whatever reason with their replacement phones, be they iOS, Android or Windows Phone.
A spokesman for the country's largest cell carrier Rogers told BGR.com that consumer interest was "definitely strong" but did not provide numbers or context compared to the other major competitors. With hard figures on pre-orders, however, relative customer interest in the revived lineup is impossible to accurately gauge.
CIBC analyst Todd Coupland did not reveal his sources on the 50 percent claim, but said that the finding was "a surprise" and "will be watched closely in other regions." BlackBerry is very closely tied into the national image Canadians have of their tech business sector, and BlackBerry's fortunes are important to its economy in that market -- BlackBerry products continue to do well in the capital of Ottawa, the city and suburbs of Toronto and other major business centers in the country, and are still used in some areas of the US, UK, Indian and Middle East government and enterprise base. How well the rebranded Research In Motion can do outside its home territory, however, remains to be determined.
The new Z10 smartphone will debut in Canada tomorrow, February 5, with an expected US launch date sometime in next month. Early reviews of the flagship phone have generally been kind but usually draw the conclusion that BlackBerry needed this model about two years ago to compete against the iPhone 4. It is seen as a reasonable alternative for those seeking an option other than iOS and Android, but a lack of popular apps and a lack of "wow" factor in the device may keep response to the comeback attempt muted.