The folks at BlackBerry loaned me a BlackBerry Z10, and I've been spending quite a bit of time with it. We write a lot about Android and iOS here on TechRepublic's Smartphones blog, so I wanted to give the BlackBerry a fair shake to see how it applies to typical enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and Corporate Owned Professionally Enabled (COPE) use cases.
I've been removed from the BlackBerry world since around 2009, and spending time with this loaner makes it seem like that experience no longer counts, because -- despite ominous rumbles on the mobile device marketing and executive leadership fronts -- BlackBerry has managed to release a enterprise-grade device that shows they are still very much in the smartphone technology game.
Enterprise mobility requirements of today dictate that smartphone users need access to corporate information from SharePoint and cloud sites from devices, and the BlackBerry Z10 delivers on that front.The BlackBerry Z10 includes Documents To Go, which is a proven mobile office standard for any enterprise with users who require access to Microsoft Office documents. Just like on other devices, Documents To Go on the BlackBerry is good for quick edits and document reviews. The app on the loaner BlackBerry (Figure A) was quick and responsive, and documents were easy to read on the smartphone's display. Figure A
Documents To Go on the BlackBerry Z10.
Out of the box, the BlackBerry Z10 includes access to Evernote, Dropbox, and Box. For companies that use the business versions of these services, this could help their end users (and support people) maintain a standard user experience across devices.The onboard Dropbox app (Figure B) is a great example of how the BlackBerry Z10 splits storage between the device and the cloud. In fact, it's very easy to switch between device and cloud storage, which is something to consider if your enterprise workers need frequent mobile access to documents. Figure B
Dropbox on the BlackBerry Z10.
While it does seem that the BlackBerry enterprise app ecosystem is withering, there are some notable enterprise mobility apps launching that support the BlackBerry Z10. For example, harmon.ie, makers of the excellent harmon.ie for iOS app, have released harmon.ie for BlackBerry. Other enterprise vendors, including Splashtop and Citrix, also have client apps available for the Z10.
Another important enterprise mobility move is opening up BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to Android and iOS devices. This is definitely a way to get the spotlight back on BlackBerry as an enterprise mobility platform.
BlackBerry Z10 and BYOD
The BlackBerry Z10 and BYOD use case might be a bit murkier. A BlackBerry resurgence would come from corporate buyers returning to the BlackBerry fold, but not so much with the personal device market.
When it comes to BlackBerry and BYOD, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) can now manage Android and iOS devices. Opening up their management tools to other operating systems could be BlackBerry's side door that the device needs to get back into the enterprise.
BlackBerry Z10 and COPE
One wild card is the BlackBerry Z10 driving more COPE initiatives. Honestly, COPE doesn't get the buzz that BYOD does amongst analysts and the press. However, it's a useful compromise for enterprises that want to provide their users a choice of devices without jumping off the BYOD pier. The BlackBerry Z10 includes some features that should make it prominent in any list of corporate-owned devices.
The BlackBerry Z10 hits many of my requirements for a COPE device, including:
- The BlackBerry 10 OS is clean, well designed, and easy to use. It lacks that proprietary and clunky feel that I remember from circa 2009 and earlier BlackBerry experience.
- Easy email account setup. I found how I could enter the email address and password for my Google Apps for Business account, and then the BlackBerry OS did the rest of the setup work. This is a definite selling point for the BlackBerry as a COPE choice. A user could enter email account credentials on their own, without the need for much (if any) IT department intervention.
- The Wi-Fi setup is easily accessible in the Setup folder under Get Connected. You don't have to fumble around on this device to find it. The loaner BlackBerry Z10 found the two secure Wi-Fi networks I tested it on without hesitation.
Another reason why the BlackBerry Z10 might be the COPE device of choice is its use of dual personas -- giving users a secure container on the smartphone for their corporate apps and documents, and then giving them another persona for their personal information and apps through BlackBerry Balance (requires BES).
The BlackBerry Z10 very well might be the company's second chance to regain their standing as an enterprise mobility leader. I'm saying this as an iPhone user. The BlackBerry Z10 OS and device have a rightful place beside the iPhone and Android smartphones in the market right now. However, despite the turnaround that's apparent in the BlackBerry Z10, Blackberry's corporate executive leadership -- not the technology -- might be holding them back.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.