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BlackBerry aims to own mobile security and privacy

BlackBerry views its transformation process as largely being about getting its “mojo” back around its “rightful place” in security and privacy

BlackBerry plans to get back to its enterprise security and privacy roots, according to the company’s chief operating officer (COO) Marty Beard.

“We are in the midst of a significant turnaround at BlackBerry,” he told the GoodExchange Cyber Security Summit 2015 in London.

An important part of any turnaround is to stabilise the company and make money, according to Beard. Now, with more than $3.5bn in cash, BlackBerry is able to think and act strategically.

“We feel like we have every right to own the mobile and mobile security space. Just as people identify the Nike brand with fitness, we want people to identify our brand with mobile security and privacy,” Beard told an audience of mainly Good Technology customers and partners.

BlackBerry views the transformation process as largely being about getting its “mojo” back around its “rightful place” in security and privacy, but he said that means there is a lot of work to be done.

As part of the turnaround process, BlackBerry has made a string of strategic acquisitions, including mobile security platform supplier Good Technology in a $426m deal announced in September 2015.

Despite its history as a maker of mobile phones, Beard said software is a significant part of its business and this is likely to continue to grow.

“Between 20% and 25% of our business is currently software. We see this as a business that amounts to at least $500m in our fiscal year. It has been growing in double digits and is something we are investing in heavily,” he said.

According to Beard, Good Technology is unlikely to be the last acquisition. “We have been investing on the enterprise side pretty aggressively, which is something we will continue to do wherever we see an opportunity,” he said.

Enterprise security and privacy

Beard said many of the recent acquisitions had been aimed at rounding out its security capabilities.

“While we have always had secure email and messaging, we felt that we needed secure voice, especially for customers in government and regulated industries, so we now have the capability to do encrypted voice calls,” he said.

Another gap BlackBerry identified was file sharing, which was the reason behind its $59m acquisition of secure enterprise file sync-and-share supplier WatchDox.

However, Beard said that BlackBerry thinks of the deal with Good Technology more as a merger than an acquisition.

“Good Technology has an incredible core platform and an incredible multi-operating system capability and we bring a lot of strength in mobile device management [MDM] as well, so it’s a good marriage,” he said.

However, Beard said BlackBerry remains a mobile phone maker, and the corporate strategy of focusing on enterprise security and privacy applies as much to the hardware side of the business as it does to the software side.

“BlackBerry still provides the most secure phone on the market, from the chip all the way up to the applications and the operating system,” he said.

Hardware is a “tough space” when it comes to the overall management goal of making money, but Beard said the company is committed to doing that in all parts of the business.

“Indications are that we will make money in the 2017 financial year. We have announced that we will soon be releasing an Android touch device that also has a keyboard capability,” he said.

Beard said BlackBerry is determined that its first Android device will bring something new to the market, which will be available in the coming weeks.

 “We worked really hard for a long time on adding our security layer in a unique way on top of Android, as well as giving the user the ability to control the privacy,” he said.

Securing devices in the internet of things

In addition to the traditional mobile space, Beard said BlackBerry is also planning to focus on securing the billions of future devices that will make up the internet of things (IoT).

BlackBerry is already embedded in the infotainment and electrical systems of 60 million vehicles on the roads worldwide.

“These systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated, but at the same time they have to be secure. That is a huge opportunity and something we will focus on a lot,” said Beard.

BlackBerry, he said, looks at IoT very practically. “The healthcare, automotive and shipping sectors are investing in IoT and they need a platform, such as what we provide, that can secure those things.”

Right now, said Beard, the “thing” is the smartphone, but it is becoming things such as wearables and sensors, which will all need to be secured.

“Considering all the things that are hitting enterprises today, the opportunity is huge because we will be completely focused on enterprise security,” he said.

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