The day that everyone we were all waiting for has arrived. Blackberry 10 is a go, and Canadians will have the first crack at the first of two new handsets, the touch-screen Z10, which will be available within weeks. Meanwhile, the Q10, which will have the more familiar Blackberry keyboard, will be out in the spring.
The look and feel of the devices are pretty much what we expected based on protoyptes that RIM, now re-christened Blackberry, showed off as it made the rounds of industry events and conferences. But if you want an up up-to-date and thorough review of Z10 and its functionality, you can find it here.
Living two lives
What I find most compelling about BB10 is not so much the devices themselves (though they do look pretty cool) but rather the fact that Blackberry has been the first mobile vendor to tackle the bring-your-own-device issue from the ground up. One distinguishing feature of BB10 is what the company calls ‘Balance” – the ability to have two completely sandboxed profiles, one business and one personal.
In the past, Blackberry was simply the mobile device for business. But now that competitors have encroached on its territory from all sides, it’s been forced to appeal to the consumer as well. At the same time, it wanted to maintain its reputation as a provider of the most secure enterprise mobile devices and management systems.
With Blackberry Balance , you get the best of both worlds, two phones living together, but in strictly separate quarters. No other mobile operating system has this level of compartmentalization, so Blackberry now has unique advantage over its foes, one that I wouldn’t underestimate.
A BYOD truce
At first glance, Blackberry Balance may seem like a feature aimed primarily at the enterprise, and not so much at the employee. After all, the biggest BYOD concern has been enterprise security, and a sandboxed OS that a business can fully control will keep many IT departments happy.
But there’s more to it than that. Just as the personal side of your Blackberry can’t interact with a company’s IT infrastructure, neither can the company meddle with your personal information. The right to privacy cut both ways, after all.
Instead of brainstorming all sorts of creative solutions to the BYOD problem, Blackberry has taken the simple approach with Balance. And all other things being equal, simpler is almost always better when it comes to device management.
Production and consumption
For some reason, it’s become a sort of truism that smartphones and tablets are “consumption” devices while desktops and laptops are “production” devices. While I understand the distinction, the fact is that employees bring their devices to work so they can be more productive.
I attended the Gartner CIO summit in Toronto a few months ago and one of the speakers, Bob Hafner, managing vice-president of Gartner’s mobile and client computing group, articulated the concept very well:
“The primary reason they’re bringing this stuff into the organization is because they think they can do a better job with those tools,” he said. “They’re actually trying to help the company. They don’t think about it from an IT perspective, they think about it from their job perspective.”
The new Blackberry 10, with its split personality, is absolutely a production device. Employees, especially contract workers who are on the move and may work for several different companies, can better organize their meetings and lists of tasks, and will be able to connect securely to corporate IT environments, wherever they might be.
And once they get home, it’s play time. All on the same phone.
In short, I think that in an era in which social and professional relationships are starting to get a little bit to close, the new Blackberry is going to give them some needed space.