The Fundamentals of BlackBerry 10 Apps

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — April 08, 2013

Gregg Ostrowski, Senior Director, Enterprise Developer Partnerships for BlackBerry has a big job ahead of him — enable enterprise partners to continue developing and promoting their BlackBerry 10 apps, all while making it easy for the customers— the IT admins—to find those apps to enable the business and help the end users do their jobs. Plus, help enterprises take their existing apps and migrate to the BlackBerry 10 platform.


Of course, he has always had that big job to do, having been with BlackBerry for 12 years and playing an integral role in the launch of BlackBerry 10. In an interview with Mobile Enterprise, he explained the complexity of working in two worlds — like every business must do these days — one that’s behind the firewall and one that’s on the public side.

Ostrowski spends about 40% of his time helping partners, and about 60% working directly with enterprises on migrating their own custom internally developed apps (ones  that will never be in a public app store).

Typically these migrations have to be complete before companies can roll out the larger portion of their BlackBerry 10 devices. This development includes not only making the apps run, but “making them run better,” and taking advantage of the things that BB10 has to offer such as the Hub.

So, while he is mainly, “within the work perimeter, behind the firewall with a VPN solution that is built in to the BES10,” there are also plenty of business apps in BlackBerry World which the enterprise can utilize.

To navigate the complexity of the app ecosystem — building or migrating; finding, approving and deploying— he breaks down BlackBerry’s approach to four fundamentals: open standards, connectivity, push content and full management capability.

Open Standards
:  Ostrowski explained, “When you look at BlackBerry as a whole, starting out from early BlackBerry devices until BlackBerry 10, our platform and methodology for development was using a Java development environment, which was fairly proprietary. Moving forward to BlackBerry 10, we went to an open standards approach,” he said.

BlackBerry now directs enterprise customers to build with HTML5 and leverage its WebWorks tool, which allows developers to run and compile applications and “look and feel as if they are native.” He said this allows for building very robust apps that tie into the core fundamentals of the BlackBerry 10 platform.

Connectivity
is built right in to the work perimeter of Balance. So the minute an app is running inside of it, the app automatically has a secure always on, always connected VPN. In other words, he said, “It solves the mobile VPN problem.”  

Push:
Ostrowksi believes that the ability to push content is where they “fill the gaps for things like field service and workflow and even dashboards to that level.” The mechanism for push through BES10 to the BlackBerry devices solves two things, according to Ostrowski. “One, it provides a real-time guaranteed notification of new data being sent to the device. Two, the employee can work offline which is critical to field service and workflow.”   

He gave an example of workers in the oil field, a place, he pointed out, that you might not imagine BlackBerry to be. “You can take picture, do bar code scanning, etc., and all that data that is captured is automatically sent down once the employee is in the coverage area again,” he explained.

Full Management Capability
: The ability to upgrade and push apps, making them available for required or optional download through BlackBerry World for Work. “We typically focus on the business critical apps where you can automatically make it push down to the devices the second the person is activated on the BES10,” he said.

Working World of Apps
Many enterprise-grade partners’ apps have already been widely discussed, for example, Harmon.ie’s  Sharepoint app. “In addition, Cisco is fully supporting BB10 with WebEx, while SAP built a workflow app to take advantage of the Hub’s ability,” Ostrowski said. But, there are also many vertical specific apps that are not as well known.

SAP offers “CFO Advantage,” which is an executive-level dashboard allowing users to pull in different feeds from both behind the firewall and the Internet. So, public market data and real-time sales data can be seen. iTimeSheet is another example, and was built specifically for the legal vertical. 

Apps such as this will live in BlackBerry for Work, which serves as the enterprise app storefront.  This is where the admin has the ability of making apps available for the enterprise. BlackBerry World is the public app store, but approved and recommended apps from here can also reside in Work. Through BlackBerry Balance, anything downloaded here, in the work perimeter, can only be used in it.  

It seems simple enough. Build or approve; push or suggest apps — all separated for you through Balance. But as Ostrowski pointed out, “It must be daunting for an admin to go through 100,000 apps to decide on what is appropriate for the workspace.” Therefore, a key component of his strategy going forward will be ensuring the admins have a way to easily find and understand what is recommended for their business users.

With so much to choose from, what apps is Ostrowski using everyday? His top favorites, he said, are any apps that revolve around workflow, especially for the ability to push data and work offline.  No. 2  is WebEx — “I use that quite heavily,” he noted. And No. 3, is NoteSmartly, a notetaking app, created specifically for BlackBerry, which allows users to leverage the share framework.  You can assign notes to other people in a workgroup and collaborate, always seeing the latest comment and update on the note.

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