What's new for BlackBerry business users?

Q5 unified search
The hardware keyboard on the Q5 makes unified search easier

As well as announcing the budget Q5 BlackBerry 10 handset at the BlackBerry Live conference this week, the company is also updating its management features for businesses – for its own and other smartphones.

So not only will the BBM messaging service be available for iOS and Android this summer - initially for text messages, photos and the new branded channels that businesses can use to reach customers - but with BBM voice and video features promised in the future. That could be useful within a business because it allows the sender to see when a message has been delivered and if it's been read yet.

But if your business uses Microsoft Lync or IBM's Sametime instant messaging, you can now get encrypted instant messages on BlackBerry 10 handsets.

You can see who else is available on IM, see new messages in the BlackBerry Hub, send individual and group messages or switch from a text chat to a voice call. And if you're using BlackBerry Balance to separate personal apps and work information, secure IM can be managed inside the work perimeter of Balance.

Secure Work Space

The free BlackBerry Enterprise IM 3.0 app is available on the BlackBerry site now, but the Secure Work Space apps for iOS and Android that BlackBerry showed in March is still in beta testing with selected partners. Secure Work Spaces will need an update to the BlackBerry Enterprise Service that will be available at the end of June.

It's scheduled to ship by the end of August through the Apple App Store and Google Play. Both versions will include email, contacts, calendar, tasks and file access, a secure browser for looking at intranet sites, and allow admins to package up apps to run inside the BlackBerry-protected workspace.

"What we're focusing on is data level protection," Jeff Holleran, Senior Director of Enterprise Product Management, told TechRadar Pro. "It's about protecting data on the device rather than the ability to control the complete device.

"We use the right levels of data protection so we don't have the concern of attack vector going against the data, because it's just those fully authenticated apps from the business that have the ability to go across the secure connection to the firewall. You can think of it as extending the firewall to cover the apps on the device."

Not only is that easier than trying to build an app that uses a VPN, but it's also better for battery life. Because a VPN connection will time out if it's not being used, other tools for connecting to business data have to keep the connection alive. This involves turning on the phone radio, which reduces battery life and uses up a data plan.

BlackBerry isn't yet looking at Windows Phone or any other platforms.

Feedback factor

"Our customers have asked us to support iOS and Android," Holleran said. "If there is feedback from them, we will add additional platforms when it makes sense to do so."

That's over and above the BES 10 version 10.1 update that's available this week, which allows admins to apply the same kind of policies to BlackBerry 10 handsets as they could with BlackBerry 7 devices, like turning off the camera or blocking personal apps and files.

It's aimed at primarily government departments and heavily regulated industries that need to strictly control what employees can do with phones. But smaller businesses will also be interested in the new version of BES because it's significantly easier to install, as well as showing more information about the phones – BlackBerry, iOS and Android - that you're managing.

The new dashboard will show how many devices are being managed, what mobile network they're on, what OS they're running, what apps are installed and whether they're complying with your policies.

"We got a lot of user feedback," Holleran told us. "We listened to the feedback and we've simplified it a lot."

For example, BES 10 had multiple installers, all with different requirements, and you had to run them in the right order.

"We consolidated the installers so it's going to lay down the components you need in the right order. We do port checking to make sure there are no conflicts. We made sure it became a very seamless installation."

Firewall options

The June BES update will also make managing iOS and Android devices easier by simplifying firewall options.

"The number one complaint we had was all those ports you had to open on the firewall to Apple and Google for managing devices," Holleran said. "Now we route that through the BlackBerry secure infrastructure so you don't have to open extra ports."

BES 10 version 10.1 is a free download and BlackBerry is continuing the offer of free upgrades for BES 5 users until the end of December 2013. After that licences will cost $59 (£39) per year per device.


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.