BES12 takes BlackBerry EMM to the cloud

BlackBerry finally brought its flagship BES12 EMM service to the cloud, along with a productivity suite and a new touchscreen phone for diehard users.

BlackBerry's path toward broad, cross-platform enterprise appeal continued with moves this week, including a long-awaited BES12 pivot.

BlackBerry's enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform, BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 12, will soon be available as a hybrid and public cloud-only deployment for the first time.

BES had been available through on-premises deployments or private clouds. BlackBerry promised hybrid and public cloud deployments at the introduction of BES12 last year.

BES12 Cloud offers management of BlackBerry 10, Apple iOS, Google Android and Windows Phone devices as well as Samsung KNOX and Android for Work-enabled devices. It includes an online purchase and registration process for quick EMM availability.

The cloud product contains the "core functionality" of the on-premises version but adds the ease of management and deployment through the cloud, the company said.

"BES12 Cloud will be great for small businesses and anyone who doesn't want to or can't maintain an [on-premises] server," said Denny Bono, IT manager with American Crane and Equipment, Co. in Douglassville, Pa.

However, American Crane was an early adopter of the BES12 on-premises offering and is unlikely to switch to the new cloud version because it's happy with its deployment and licensing structure, Bono said.

BlackBerry is late to the cloud EMM party as competitors such as  AirWatch by VMware, MobileIron and IBM Fiberlink MaaS360 already have established cloud EMM offerings.

[BES 12 Cloud] is an attempt to say, 'we are serious about getting into the cloud and we're making a play with any platform you have out there.'
Jack Goldanalyst, J. Gold Associates

Cloud-based mobility management has become hot, which could explain the timing of BES12 Cloud's introduction, said Jack Gold, mobile analyst and principal with J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass.

BES12 Cloud likely required a major re-architecting by BlackBerry because BES was originally designed to run locally, Gold said.

"It inched to the cloud over time," Gold said. "It's an attempt to say, 'We are serious about getting into the cloud and we're making a play with any platform you have out there.'"

BlackBerry adds Experience Suite, Leap smartphone

In addition to BES12 Cloud, BlackBerry made several other enterprise-focused introductions. The all-encompassing BlackBerry Experience Suite is a new cross-platform play for productivity, collaboration and security across iOS, Android and Windows Phone, in addition to BlackBerry devices.

The Experience Suite includes three bundles of services that can either be bought together or separately: the Productivity Suite, which creates intelligent workflows, and manages email, BlackBerry Messenger, document editing; the Communication and Collaboration Suite, for secure real-time sharing and collaboration as well as Wi-Fi voice calls, video chats and integrated calendars; and the Security Suite to protect information and secure communications.

The Experience Suite is another attempt at cross-platform appeal that is central to BlackBerry's survival going forward, Gold said.

"They've realized that since [CEO John] Chen has been there," Gold said. "BBM isn't a bad product and to protect communications from being intercepted, especially if you're a larger enterprise, isn't a bad thing."

The Experience Suite may be best for organizations with specific security and enhanced productivity needs. However, native email and messaging apps may be the best fit for some organizations. "...[Those apps] are good enough for work purposes," said American Crane's Bono, who doesn't plan to use the new Suite. "We don't necessarily lock things down or restrict the user's devices so the extra added bells and whistles, we don't utilize."

On the hardware side, BlackBerry is set to launch a new all-touchscreen smartphone, the BlackBerry Leap. The new phone runs on the BlackBerry 10 operating system and includes a five-inch screen.

The company has de-emphasized its hardware production in terms of revenue and devices shipped, selling 2.1 million phones in Q3 of 2014 compared to 3.7 million the same quarter the year before. But there is still a market for users who prefer BlackBerrys, Gold said.

"For folks that liked the Z10 or the Z30, [the Leap] gives them an upgrade path," he said.

General availability of BES12 Cloud will begin later this month; it is in closed beta now. Anyone interested in joining the closed beta can inquire with BlackBerry.

The pricing for BES12 Cloud is the same as the on-premises offering, with Silver tier pricing ranging from $23 to $40 per device, per year, and Gold tier pricing from $72 to $90 per device, per year. Both Silver and Gold tiers include mobile device, application, email and compliance management for all devices. The Gold tier adds on secure browsing, document editing, productivity apps and containers.

The BlackBerry Experience Suite will be available later this year and pricing is not yet available, a BlackBerry spokesperson said. The BlackBerry Leap will be available starting at $275 with a European launch in April and no North American launch date set as of yet, the spokesperson said.

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