The Future Of BlackBerry Points To Software

BlackBerry knows who is paying the bills. And it isn't people buying their smartphones. 

BlackBerry's revenue these days comes mostly from its enterprise clients that use its services for security and management of mobile devices and applications. In its most recent quarter, almost half of the company's revenue came from its Services division as sales of its smartphones plummeted. BlackBerry serves these enterprises through its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 hardware that enterprises install and maintain. But hardware of any sort may be an untenable solution for BlackBerry going forward. The future of BlackBerry, if there is one, is going to be in software for the enterprise.

BlackBerry has some vague notions that it can turn its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service into a powerhouse messaging service that lives on iPhones and Androids as its next great revenue driver. But the messaging ecosystem is crowded and competitive. Google, Apple and Microsoft all have their own messaging services native to their smartphone operating systems. Facebook has its own Messenger too, which lives on almost all smartphones. Growing third parties like WhatsApp are popular and making money across the world. If BlackBerry thinks it can make a moonshot with BBM, it has a tough row to hoe in the coming months. 

BlackBerry made a quiet announcement today as part of the Gartner Symposium, ITXpo 2013 conference that shows where its future roadmap really is going.

BlackBerry Takes Its Enterprise Mobility To The Cloud

BlackBerry is taking to the cloud to serve security and management for enterprise smartphones. BlackBerry announced today a cloud-based enterprise mobility management service for enterprises to secure employees' smartphones, manage and deploy new apps and devices and give allow employees to manage their own devices.

Essentially, BlackBerry is bringing the capabilities of its Mobile Fusion mobile device management (MDM) that is part of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 product to the cloud. Mobile Fusion was announced by BlackBerry (still Research In Motion at the time) in November 2011 and rolled out the following spring. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion was intended to live within the BlackBerry Enterprise Server that served security, management and deployment for any and all types of employee smartphones, including iPhones and Android devices, as well as BlackBerry units. 

This is a small product for BlackBerry but one with a degree of cultural significance. In the wake of its disastrous quarterly earnings in which it lost nearly a billion dollars, laid off 40% of its employees and announced an intent to sell with an offer from a financial services company, BlackBerry has said that it is going back to its roots of serving the enterprise and focusing on security and communications. The implication there is that the future of BlackBerry will de-emphasize building hardware, including smartphones and perhaps BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.

BlackBerry realizes that BES 10 hardware may be a hard sell to enterprises that do not know if the company is going to be around in a couple years. Hardware and management infrastructure costs are not purchases that enterprises and governments take lightly because the deployment cycle is much longer than the consumer gadget cycle. Where a consumer may get a new smartphone every year or two, enterprise cycles are often three years or more. 

With a cloud-based enterprise mobility management solution like this, there is no hardware to install and maintain. Interested corporations can just register to the service and run it. The service is expected to be available by the end of November this year.