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CEO of BlackBerry downplays enterprise mobility management

NEW YORK — We’ve talked a lot about BlackBerry’s shift from a device manufacturer to a software provider over the past few years. And when we referred to software, we typically meant enterprise mobility management (EMM). In that regard, the company’s transformation has gone well.

BlackBerry is one of the four leading vendors in the EMM market, according to the Gartner Magic Quadrant. And the BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Suite trails only VMware’s AirWatch in terms of market share, according to IDC’s MarketScape report for unified endpoint management.

John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, and other executives stressed that the company’s vision goes far beyond securing mobile devices and PCs, however.

“I don’t want to be an EMM provider,” Chen said here at the BlackBerry Security Summit. “It’s a lousy market. If Microsoft wants the market, they can have it. We’re in endpoint management, the IoT world.”

CEO of BlackBerry acknowledges marketing problem

BlackBerry’s five-year goal is to be as synonymous with overall enterprise security as Salesforce is with CRM software or as Oracle is with databases, COO Marty Beard said. That will be an uphill battle outside of the vendor’s core customer base: government agencies, financial firms and other highly regulated companies.

To that end, BlackBerry established an enterprise software sales force and a channel, Beard said. But there are still significant challenges around marketing the company’s new identity.

Over the past decade, as the consumerization of IT took hold, BlackBerry lost significant mindshare among IT professionals — many of whom were once devout users of the company’s smartphones. Now, they don’t think about BlackBerry when it comes to making technology purchasing decisions, said an infrastructure engineer for a financial firm in the Northeast.

“You’ve got to build that muscle memory,” said the engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his employer did not authorize him to talk to the media.

Chen also acknowledged this problem.

“Not too many people know about what we do too well,” he said.

Inside BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Suite

The BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Suite grew out of BlackBerry Enterprise Service, which originally provided secure email and management capabilities for the company’s own smartphones. Over time, BlackBerry added support for Apple iOS and macOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows. The product also saw significant enhancements following the 2015 acquisition of EMM competitor Good Technology.

That deal “was a very necessary thing for us to do to express our commitment to the enterprise mobility software market,” said Chen, who took over as CEO of BlackBerry in 2013. “It has not been easy integrating the technology, but we finally did. … It was like two sinking animals trying to save each other, but we finally got it done, and now we’re in a good place.”

Today, the BlackBerry Enterprise Mobility Suite also supports management of IoT devices and even connected cars that use its QNX software. And its Dynamics platform allows organizations to develop apps with management, security and collaboration features built in.

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"If Microsoft wants the market, they can have it"

Strangest comment I've heard in a while...like they are throwing in the towel (again)
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It is strange to hear a CEO cede the market like that. But I get where he's coming from. A lot of EMM, especially MDM, is a commodity these days, and market penetration is still fairly low. So in the grand scheme of enterprise software and security, where BlackBerry really wants to play, leadership in the EMM market isn't going to be hugely important one way or the other.
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