Along with a tightly integrated hub where Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolio for Research in Motion (RIM) says, "You are only a gesture away from all your communication," the new BlackBerry 10 is "built for BYOD from the ground up," according to Jeff Holleran, senior director, enterprise product management for RIM.
The launch of BlackBerry 10 will take place at yet undisclosed locations around the world, simultaneously on January 30. In preparation, RIM announced last week its "BlackBerry 10 Ready Program," which will address the needs of the existing enterprise customers as they prepare for the new device and platform.
And while much has been said about RIM's misses and the proliferation of the other devices and OSes, especially when it comes to BYOD, this launch is not about the competition. It's with the very well defined existing and former BlackBerry user that Bhardwaj closely aligns the new offerings.
He said, "First, we have an obligation to ensure we are successful in launching a new platform. That success is not necessarily displacing market share from our competitors; it's making sure we sustain and maintain our existing subscriber base of 80 million customers." Naturally, the goal is to get all of these customers on BlackBerry 10.
He continued, "Second is reaching out to those customers who left us in the past for a variety of reasons, some of which we know are very evident. But, we have found that the audience who went to competitive platforms, has missed BlackBerry. They became frustrated when they left us and they want to come back, but they will only come back once we have checked all the boxes on the things we were missing."
In fact, part of RIM's go-to-market strategy is making sure those people are hyper aware of what's fixed and what's new. Some of those unchecked boxes included deficits around the browser, lack of apps and the missing touch UX that users today expect. So as Bhardwaj indicated, these things were all addressed and he says, "Not only have we done that, but we have innovated as well."
Consumerization of IT
No matter what's been said about BlackBerry devices and platforms, there's little argument about it being the best option for securing the enterprise. However, with the consumer dictating the device type, RIM also knows it needs to win over the BYOD set.
When it comes to messaging, from now until launch expect to see more play where the consumer is — in the digital world with videos and through social media. At the store level, the staff is educated and ready to show all the new features. Bhardwaj says that they are getting fantastic feedback from their carrier partners who are "excited to have a new experience and a new way of doing things in the mobile industry."
"The device belongs to the user and the workspace belongs to the enterprise," says Holleran, and this is fully realized in BlackBerry 10 through BlackBerry Balance.
Active sync connects basic policies in a non-BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) Exchange environment, but when it comes to optimal BYOD functionality, it's all about BlackBerry Balance, which can only be fully leveraged through a BES. "Activating a BlackBerry 10 smartphone against BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 will provision the workspace and enable BlackBerry Balance," Holleran explains. It provides total separation of work and personal, and full enterprise control to manage and wipe the work side of the device.
A total consumer experience can now be had on the device without risking the enterprise or getting in the way of personal use. He says, "You have a different way of using your mobile device in your personal life than you do in your work life. With a quick swipe you can change from personal to work and clearly see which instance of the device you are in."
The enterprise brands the screen. "Once that's branded people know immediately they have switched to work mode. Gone is the background of the kids or the family pet. Now you see, for example, your company logo," Holleran says.
That's not all that disappears. Once you make the switch, all personal items disappear — that includes emails, apps, social media accounts, details on your calendar, pictures, etc. Plus, you are now fully cut off from accessing even the company's Wi-Fi (unless authorized by your admin).
Holleran says, "Work apps are all on the work side of the device enabled by BES 10. Personal apps don't have access to work data; work apps don't have access to personal data. So once you switch to the personal side, you need to open the Internet to connect."
There are variations to this rule when it comes to apps that may intersect. For example, with the calendar, on both sides you can see that you are busy — because it is important to know that you have to be somewhere at a certain time — but the details shown are only applicable to the side you are on.
Bhardwaj points out, "These hybrid apps are specific RIM-built apps that can go across the workspace and the personal for the point of displaying information. Nobody wants two calendars."
And speaking of apps – Holleran says that unlike consumer app developers, the enterprise developers are writing client server apps that have to go to the back end. With the Blackberry 10 device going through BES10, "We did the hard work for enterprise app developers and took care of security and connectivity needs. The pipe behind the firewall exists by default once you make that connection."
The RIM app team is working with enterprises in converting BB7 apps and exploring what other apps corporations want for their businesses. RIM is seeking to help with app strategy to work across all of its offerings, and app development for BlackBerry is now easier are more open than in the past.
Bhardwaj and Holleran both believe one of the top features, and one that enterprises will be able to greatly leverage with BlackBerry 10, is the hub. Here all the apps are running and a variety of notifications are available. You don't have to go "home" to access other apps or see messaging, notifications or events.
Enterprises can easily set workflows through the hub. Approvals, for example, show up in a separate set of notifications, and users can take action quickly right from the hub.
Everything in BlackBerry 10 is tightly integrated but easily accessible, according to Bhardwaj. "You don't have to close one app and go to the next. There's no back-and-forth only peeking." This is, in part, how BlackBerry 10 is modeled around the BlackBerry user who is the ultimate multitasker. This does not mean that when you start peeking or switching between sides that the device shuts things off. Everything stays running no matter which side you are on and you can close anything with one touch.
For what Bhardwaj calls a more "cinematic experience," every app — top to bottom, left to right — occupies the entire screen, but he notes, at the same time you can see the notifications with a single gesture, no longer having to hit three or four buttons, you just pivot up and swipe back. You fully control what you want to see — everything at once or just the current app you're working with.
Flicking and the Keyboard
RIM will be offering both touch and QWERTY devices (though the touch devices are launching first), and Bhardwaj shows how the touch design deliberately mimics what is on the physical BlackBerry keyboard — with a white font on black keys. Again, both aimed at the diehard user whose head is always down and fingers are always moving. One of the goals of this new UX is to "drive a better touch-type culture."
Adding to our technical jargon, BlackBerry 10 presents next-word prediction and you "flick" the option. A few word choices appear near the keys as you type, and you just flick the word with a finger and it appears in your message. RIM has turned the old "hunt and peck" into "type and flick" and this seems to address the persistent problem of autocorrect.
You can delete any word at any point by simply swiping; numbers and symbols appear by pulling down on the keyboard and you can type in as many as three languages at once. Space inference allows for automatic adjustment on spacing when you are typing fast and forget to format.
For BlackBerry users, the experience is designed to be familiar enough to resonate, but still very fresh. For the non-BlackBerry user, the touch will be what they have come to expect but may appeal more as the feature set continues to be revealed. For the enterprise, control, security and productivity will be a relief, but only if there is "consumer" adoption.
What RIM wants everyone to know is that the company is bringing a new user experience, supported by the functionality and features of the hub and keyboard combined with BlackBerry Balance for total separation.
Hints to the Future
And, with hints to a computerless work environment, the BlackBerry 10 vision is about more than just what happens in the few months after the launch. In September at BlackBerry Jam Americas, CEO and president, Thorsten Heins told the audience that BlackBerry 10 processor is "closer to a laptop."
He also recently told the New York Times, "Whenever you enter an office, you don't have your laptop with you, you have your mobile computer power exactly here," Mr.Heins said, patting a BlackBerry 10 phone sitting in a holster on his hip. "You will not carry a laptop within three to five years."