Its partnership with Ford may have dominated recent headlines, but did you know BlackBerry is collaborating with 250 auto makers? Or that its software is now installed in 60 million cars?
BlackBerry COO Marty Beard is on a mission to redefine his company’s image, and its starts with highlighting just how significant a role security, software, and automotive operating systems, rather than hardware (of any kind, to say nothing of the company’s iconic mobile devices), plays in the company’s operations today.
“We’re basically the market leader in car operating systems,” he says. “You as a user may see (your car radio) but the OS underneath is BlackBerry. Your car’s entire acoustic system, all of it, is BlackBerry.”
Beard is the first to acknowledge that when he joined BlackBerry three years ago, after holding executive positions with Oracle Corp., SAP division Sybase, and cloud call centre firm LiveOps Inc., the company was 100 per cent focused on hardware, and only recently succeeded in rebuilding itself around software, with a focus on the automotive industry and what Beard calls “BlackBerry Secure” and the “Enterprise of Things.”
“We always knew that the strategy was going to be around software, because BlackBerry’s secret sauce, if you will, was largely based around security and software,” he says, though he notes that as a software executive, he was surprised BlackBerry hadn’t already optimized itself around its software assets when he first arrived at the company.
It’s those software assets that form the core of BlackBerry Secure, which Beard says represents the total sum of BlackBerry’s end-to-end software solutions, including the secure end point management services (an evolution of the company’s mobile device management software and services) it provides to such enterprises as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, to ensure that only authorized employees have access to company-approved applications on business devices.
“We want our customers to say, ‘I’m BlackBerry secure.’ We want everything to say, ‘I am BlackBerry secure,'” Beard says. “This is a big push for us, to basically brand the work environment as being ‘BlackBerry secure.'”
The “Enterprise of Things,” too, is inspired by BlackBerry’s focus on security, with the company casting its eye on securing the Internet of Things (IoT)’s increasing presence in the enterprise.
“The trend we’ve seen is this massive increase in connectivity into the enterprise, and that is not going anywhere,” Beard says, though he insists the company is not referring to IoT: “This is what is connected to the enterprise that needs to be managed and secured? If you believe that that connectivity… is going to continue, and if you believe that companies need to secure those things, then there is a good place for BlackBerry.”
BlackBerry’s goal here, best exemplified by the company’s recent acquisitions of IoT startups such as AtHoc and WatchDox, is to set the security standard for connected enterprise devices, a sector the company is well positioned to dominate given its industry-leading security software and demonstrable success in the automotive space.
“We feel really remarkably good about… going from a company that was losing, we publicly stated, $1 billion in cash per quarter, and going out of business, to a company that [in our last report] saw us… making money for our third straight quarter,” Beard says.
Other sectors in which Beard envisions BlackBerry becoming a leader include:
- Content Management: Imagine your team needs to create a video or PowerPoint presentation incorporating sensitive information. With BlackBerry secure, the parties involved can send the video files or slides to each other without fear of the files falling into the wrong hands.
- Identity Management: For a per-user monthly fee, BlackBerry’s Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) platform will ensure that mobile devices can only be accessed by the owners assigned to them, and is compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
- Embedded Software: Exemplified by BlackBerry QNX, this is one of BlackBerry’s remaining ties to its hardware roots – though as Beard is quick to point out, the company is not designing the hardware (automotive or otherwise) itself, but rather the software embedded within the device.
- Communications: Already well-known for its secure BlackBerry Messenger instant messaging app, BlackBerry believes that regulated industries of all kinds, from hospitals to governments, can benefit from its secure AtHoc platform, which can be used to encrypt everything from phone calls to voicemail to recordings to email, and is already used by certain factions of the U.S. government.
- Applications: BlackBerry has always sold apps of its own – and made them platform-agnostic in recent years – but the one it would like to be best-known for in the future is BlackBerry Work, a productivity app that incorporates the company’s signature security software into its email, calendar, and contact list organization platform, and can be used by companies to ensure their employee devices are secure.
With files from Alex Radu.