Jokes Aside, Some IT Managers Say There's No Option Other Than BlackBerry for Security
BlackBerry's financial troubles may be funny to some, but not to the IT shops at thousands of government and enterprise organizations that rely on BlackBerry's highly touted security to keep their data safe.
Fri, October 18, 2013
Computerworld — The plight of BlackBerry has gotten so bad that heavy satire has stepped in.
In one example, a website recommends "how to upgrade your BlackBerry Smartphone to Android 4.2."
What follows at Yabaleftonline.com is a jailbreak that devolves into instructions to take the BlackBerry into the kitchen, fry it in a pan until crispy golden brown, then head out to buy an Android-based Samsung Galaxy S4.
Funny to some, but not so funny to IT workers, especially those who have staked their reputations on the security of BlackBerry as second to none, including the more popular Android and iOS operating systems.
"As for alternatives to BlackBerry, there aren't any," wrote Sandra Smith, an enterprise IT manager, in an email to Computerworld, although she didn't identify her organization. "Due to the Snowden revelations, we now realize that if you are running Microsoft/Google/Apple, you need to protect yourself from your OS and not use your OS to protect you."
IT managers and analysts note that the strength of BlackBerry's security comes from the BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) server software that is still used by thousands of government and enterprise customers globally. The BES software runs through the BlackBerry Network Operations Center (NOC) and through 500 global carriers but is separated from popular OS ecosystems like the ones working with Android, iOS and other mobile operating systems.
"BES is smart because it's not part of that ecosystem" of other operating systems, Smith said. "Sometimes exclusion is a plus. BlackBerry hardware and its OS will survive because of BES. We are all sitting here quietly paying as BES subscribers because we know and see the value."
But BlackBerry faces serious problems. Poor sales of its smartphones led to a $1 billion writeoff in the third quarter and plans to lay off 4,500 workers.
The security protections afforded by BlackBerry have become paramount in some large businesses and government agencies -- more important than an employee's desire to use a gold-colored iPhone 5S at work, or a decision by the organization's developers to stop building BlackBerry apps.
On Thursday, for instance, enterprise file sharing vendor Egnyte said it will no longer develop for the BlackBerry platform. "BlackBerry is severely challenged," said Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain in an email to Computerworld. "The future of technology rests in mobile and apps and it is no coincidence that companies are not willing to spend time and money developing apps for the struggling BlackBerry platform."