An unlikely pairing of BlackBerry and Samsung, two rivals in the smartphone industry, took shape on Thursday as the Canadian technology firm announced it would make its mobile security technology available for the Android operating system.
It was a partnership that delivered a strong message: BlackBerry may have a lower profile these days, but it’s still prepared to be competitive.
“I don’t know how to feel these days. I don’t know whether to wish Samsung success or not,” BlackBerry chief executive John Chen joked from the stage at an investor conference in San Francisco.
Starting next year, business customers will have access to software on Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets that is linked with BlackBerry’s new mobile security software, known as BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12.
Chen said BES12 will serve as an “anchor” for a plan to roll out more software to users and give large organizations the ability to manage both older BlackBerrys and more recent versions of its smartphones, as well as smartphones that run software from competitors like Microsoft, Google and Apple.
It will be made available through numerous carriers, including Rogers in Canada and Vodaphone in the United Kingdom.
The partnership combines the BES12 technology with Samsung KNOX, which is the company’s own mobile security platform.
BlackBerry’s investor conference gave company executives an opportunity to show how far they’ve come since Chen took the leadership role about a year ago.
Several other partnerships and product launches were unveiled at the event, including a limited-edition red BlackBerry Passport timed for Black Friday in the United States. The company also said it will release the BlackBerry Classic, a new take on its popular older keyboard smartphones, on Dec. 17.
New software called Enterprise Identity gives organizations the ability to manage secure access to its cloud-based internal applications and software.
BBM Meetings was also demonstrated for the first time, an addition to BBM Messenger that lets up to 25 people voice and video conference over their smartphones, sharing spreadsheets and other documents.
Shares of BlackBerry were ahead nine per cent, or $1.14 at $13.90, in late afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
After the presentation, Chen took a jab at other players in the industry, noting that he recently watched an interview with another technology company that was boasting about how it lured business customers away from BlackBerry’s services.
“At that point I knew I was going to end their party,” he said.
BlackBerry is in the midst of a turnaround plan that has involved Chen scaling back the size of the company while refocusing its priorities on corporate clients, rather than the consumer market.
“Next year is about growth. We’re going to focus on growing not only the top line, we’re going to focus on growing the profit,” Chen said in his speech.
“But you’ve got to give us a little bit of time to get there.”
One of the BlackBerry’s biggest challenges has been keeping ahead of its competitors in the enterprise services market. Both Apple and Samsung have developed their own enterprise security platforms in an effort to lure a larger chunk of BlackBerry’s customer base.
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