BlackBerry to bring productivity and security software to Android, iOS and Windows

BARCELONA, Spain--BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) is going to flesh out its future device strategy tomorrow here at Mobile World Congress, but in the meantime the company is offering more of its core software and services to larger smartphone platforms, including Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android, Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows.

With its smartphone business a shadow of its former self, BlackBerry is striving to maintain relevance in a market that has all but written off the company's hardware business. BlackBerry hopes its core competencies around productivity, communications and security will find new life as cross-platform service offerings on competing platforms and devices that consumers are increasingly using for both personal use and enterprise work. 

BlackBerry's Enterprise Service 12 platform already manages Android, iOS and Windows devices and now the company is expanding a suite of services to devices running on those platforms. The new offering, called the "BlackBerry Experience Suite," will be available later this year, and customers will be able to able to purchase different elements of it together or separately. The features include:  

  • Productivity Suite: This will let users manage personal and work email and edit documents across devices securely; let users find their highest-priority messages faster; and monitor all personal and work messages in one place, including emails, texts, BlackBerry Messenger and social media, similar to what BlackBerry offers via its Hub on its on BlackBerry 10 phones.
  • Communication and Collaboration Suite: Users will be able to share and collaborate with colleagues in real-time through instant messaging, Wi-Fi voice calls and video chats with integrated calendars; users will also be able to view and edit documents and calendar invitations across devices.
  • Security Suite: Users will be able to protect personal and work data from malware and theft via BlackBerry's secure encryption and privacy controls; secure emails, messages and phone calls; and have separate containers for work and personal messages.

BlackBerry CEO Jon Chen told reporters on a conference call that the company is "going to build a business on putting [our software] on other people's devices," according to Re/code. Chen said that over time, BlackBerry is even open to licensing some features directly to other device makers, according to Re/code.

For BlackBerry, a shift to focus on software makes sense. According to research firm IDC, the company had just 0.4 percent global smartphone market share in 2014, down from 1.9 percent share in 2013. "I look at all the assets we have, from the user interface to security--there was really a hidden gem to build a good book of business," Chen said, according to CNET.

Chen has set a goal of having $500 million in software revenue this fiscal year, and although the new offering likely won't contribute much to that, he said he is sticking to that goal. However, despite the emphasis on software, Chen said BlackBerry is not giving up on hardware. "I obviously love the software business," he said, according to Re/code. "This is not to say I am not interested in the handset business."

Meanwhile, BlackBerry and Samsung Electronics are expanding their partnership, with BlackBerry bringing new security features to Samsung phones, including the just-announced Galaxy S6. One is called WorkLife and lets enterprises separate personal and work phone numbers and have separate billing for voice, texting and data usage on a single SIM card. Another is from BlackBerry subsidiary Secusmart and its SecuSUITE solution, which offers highly security-conscious organizations like governments virtually tap-proof voice and SMS communications. BlackBerry and Samsung are working closely together to bring this government-grade security to Samsung smartphones with Samsung's KNOX security suite, including the GS6.  

For more:
- see these two separate BlackBerry releases 
- see this CNET article
- see this Re/code article 
- see this Reuters article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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