After successful stops in Paris and New York, BlackBerry Experience rolled into Montreal this past Tuesday to spread the word about BlackBerry’s enterprise mobility vision and expertise. Montreal is a diverse city known for its lively atmosphere and sociable populace, and the event kicked off with a crowd eager to get registered and get started. Information booths staffed by BlackBerry experts and partners such as Soluteo, Gwava, Counterpath, iSEC7, and eBBM were on hand to answer questions and provide information.
Some highlights from the experience:
John Sims (President, Global Enterprise Solutions), kicked things off by talking about BlackBerry’s strengths and perceived weaknesses. Does BlackBerry need 500,000 apps in its store if the 20 apps that your users use and get the most productivity out of are available? Given that the average data-breach costs $5.4 million, and ones like Target can far exceed that, is it really smart to go with another MDM provider when BlackBerry has the experience, layered security, and time-tested solutions already available? Isn’t it wiser to go with a company, like BlackBerry, that can do COBO (Corporate Owned, Business Only), COPE (Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled), and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) MDM (Multi-Device Management)? He spelled out how BlackBerry’s focus on Enterprise, BBM/eBBM, QNX, and Devices that people want (like the upcoming Classic), were four elements that would see BlackBerry thrive in the long-term, and also dangled goodies like the upcoming BES 12 cloud, and BES 12 multi-tenant (ideal for small businesses) that’s expected around March 2015.
John Sims’ presentation and one from Bob Egan of Sepharim Group on the evolution of EMM had whetted the crowd’s appetite, and Frank Cotter (VP, Mobile Computing) came out to serve us our main course. The energy in the room picked up as he started getting to the nuts and bolts with demonstration videos and specifics. He showed how quick and easy it was deploy apps, how you can access app stores right in BES and select apps you’d like to deploy, how BlackBerry can work with COBO, COPE or BYOD models, how easy BlackBerry Balance and iOS and Android workspace are to use, and how simple it is for users to use the self-serve features of BES to cut down on help desk requests. The new simplified pricing was explained as well.
Marcel St-Jean of Bombardier was on hand to provide a first-hand account of how the tools actually worked in the field. Bombardier does a lot of work in foreign countries that might be interested in obtaining company secrets, so having a truly secure system in place was important, and, in his eyes, BlackBerry was really the only company that could be trusted with that. Aside from fulfilling their current needs and adding value with things like Documents To Go, he expects BlackBerry will continue to provide solutions they need in the future, like SecuSmart for secure voice communication.
Allen Chang of Air Canada came and spoke about how certain types of help desk requests were eliminated entirely by the self-serve features of BES, and how much the time he had to spend on device management had dropped.
The usefulness of the tools was conveyed quite effectively to us. Cotter spoke about how BlackBerry is continuing to innovate, and, aside from MDM, BES 12 will be capable of managing the internet of things that will become more and more a part of our life. It was also made clear that enterprise customers could stay on BES 5 if they wanted — BES 10 and BES 12 are backwards compatible with it — and Cotter also explained how easy it would be to upgrade from BES 5 (or even a competing MDM licence) to a free Silver licence (with free support until January 31, 2015) through the EZ Pass program.
On a personal note, in the past, I’ve been frustrated with BlackBerry at times over both their lack of addressing customer concerns, and the attitude that seemed to be behind that. When I attended the BlackBerry Jam in 2012 I started to see solid signs of that mindset changing. One thing that was mentioned in passing by a few of the presentors over the course of this event was how different UI’s, tools, or processes had been changed in response to customer feedback (Secure Workspace for iOS and Android is updated 1 or 2 times a month!). This cycle of improvement focussed on meeting their client’s needs would be the one main reason I’d bet on them in the future.
Cotter had given us a lot to munch on, and an enthusiastic Jeff Gadway (Head of Product Marketing, BBM) kept the vibe going with a rousing presentation about eBBM. He mentioned an interesting case: one of their clients had 2300 devices, 80% of those were using BBM, and 70% of that was communication to BBM users outside the company. That leaves a lot of room for company data to be put at risk. eBBM builds on the current two layers of BBM security (Transport Layer Security with Perfect Forward Secrecy as the first layer, with a Triple Data Encryption Standard (3DES) BBM key as the second layer) with a third layer of a NIST Suite B public/private keys managed by the enterprise. eBBM will work with any eBBM enabled users (even across different companies) and on OS 6+ and OS 10.2.1+
Always intent on giving more, BlackBerry changed the flavour a bit and Martyn Mallick (VP, Global Alliances and Ecosystems) came out to give us some tips for building cross-platform enterprise applications using HTML5 or other methods. He spoke about how mobility was all about taking advantage of opportunities — ten minutes waiting in line is no longer wasted, it’s 10 minutes that can be put to productive use — something that BlackBerry excels at.
Again, on a personal note, Mallick said something else that I was glad to hear: people need more than e-mail. This was another thing that the old RIM mindset didn’t always seem to understand or respect (good e-mail and calendar apps aren’t enough!), and I take it as a sign of a company that’s ready to adapt instead of dictate.
It had been a jam-packed half-day, so our MC, Claudia Cyr (Territory Sales Manager) came out to thank us for coming out and we adjourned for some networking and questions. All in all it was a very good experience: well-crafted, well served, and well worth it. (You could say it was The BlackBerry Experience.)
Check out the remaining BlackBerry Experience dates below: