BlackBerry announced a renewed enterprise focus on Thursday, including a partnership with Samsung that provides secure mobile software for certain Samsung Android smartphones and tablets.
The software, to be available early next year, will bring together BlackBerry's new BES12 Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) software with Samsung smartphones and tablets that are embedded with Samsung's Knox security software. Models include the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4.
BlackBerry also named Bloomberg as a customer. "Security is a top priority for us, and this combined offering [from BlackBerry and Samsung] provides a new versatile option to the marketplace," Chris Behringer, head of enterprise mobility at Bloomberg, said in a statement.
BlackBerry announced the partnership with Samsung at an enterprise mobility event that was webcast from San Francisco. The event also featured a number of new BlackBerry software products and a partnership with Salesforce for sales into the public sector.
BES12, the latest update from BlackBerry for its enterprise server management and security platform, was officially made available Thursday. The service will be mainly available through wireless carriers globally in coming quarters, a BlackBerry spokeswoman said. Pricing was not announced.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen said BES12 will help dramatically increase revenues for the ailing company, and quipped that if that increase doesn't happen, another BlackBerry sales team will be put in place. "But I'll still be here," he said, winning laughs from the local audience.
Chen called BES12 "the most secure platform" on the market and said BES12 works across all the major mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices.
BlackBerry's current BES10 offering, along with BlackBerry device software, already outsells the next three mobility management vendors, Chen added.
"We have slipped a little bit in the past, but will use this [BES12] opportunity with new partners to recapture that," Chen said. BlackBerry has invested $1.5 billion in its latest innovations, he said.
BES12 will serve as the foundation of BlackBerry's enterprise management portfolio, but BlackBerry also announced two identity and access management software products. One of them, Enterprise Identity, will help manage secure access to cloud-based services and internal apps with a single point of control.
The other, VPN Authentication, is designed to offer enterprises Public Key Infrastructure-based, two-factor authentication. With the VPN tool, workers will be able to use their network credentials combined with their iOS, Android or BlackBerry 10 smartphone to securely access corporate content. The VPN tool will eliminate the need for costly hardware tokens carried by workers that can easily be lost, for secure access. Users also won't need to use a PIN. The VPN tool will be available in early December.
BlackBerry also announced a corporate version of its BlackBerry Messenger app called BBM Meetings. It will allow voice and video conferences for a group of up to 25 people on BlackBerry 10 and Android smartphones and Windows PCs and Macs.
Other BlackBerry news
Also announced was WorkLife by BlackBerry, which allows employers to add a separate corporate phone number to an employee's personal device, or for an employee to add a separate personal number to a corporate-provided device. WorkLife means that voice, SMS and data uses can be charged to the company, while other uses are charged to the worker, eliminating the need to file and process expense reports.
BlackBerry said WorkLife will soon be available for iOS, Android and BlackBerry 10 smartphones. Using WorkLife could eliminate potential legal problems for California employers that stem from a court ruling in August that found employees must be reimbursed for work-related voice calls on their personal cellphones, BlackBerry said.
BlackBerry also used the event also to highlight some earlier announcements. One announcement from September, was for BlackBerry Blend, an app to port messaging and content from a BlackBerry smartphone to a computer or tablet.
In addition to its new software products and its agreement with Samsung, BlackBerry named Salesforce as a partner. Salesforce will connect its customer relationship management software to BlackBerry's BES12 and other products for sales to public sector employees.
BlackBerry also announced several companies that are migrating to the new BES12, including Bombardier, American Crane, Home Hardware and Rocco Forte.
Back to smartphones, qwerty keyboards
At the end of the webcast, Chen said BlackBerry plans to sell a red-colored version of its latest BlackBerry Passport smartphone featuring a physical qwerty keyboard. "We did not make too many of these," he said, indicating it will go on sale on Black Friday, Nov. 28.
He said BlackBerry will also launch its next smartphone, the BlackBerry Classic, on Dec. 17 in New York City, Frankfurt and Singapore. Chen held up a silver-colored version of the Classic, which is a successor to the BlackBerry Bold, and has a full qwerty keyboard and trackpad. It reportedly has a bigger and sharper screen than the BlackBerry Bold. Images of the new device have already appeared on Ubergizmo.com and other Web sites.