The BlackBerry (BBRY) Z10 is now available for pre-order in the United States - a milestone for the battered smartphone maker. In recent years, market share has been dominated by Google's (GOOG) Android platform and Apple's (AAPL) iPhone.
Many are skeptical of the success of the Z10. Bearish investors point to the lack of apps as being the major deterrent to the new smartphone. With the advent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to many enterprises, these same bearish investors believe that BlackBerry has lost its niche market. This article will outline why this may not be entirely accurate.
Open Source versus Closed Source Platforms
"Open source" and "closed source" refers to whether or not a manufacturer makes the source code (computer code) available to developers to develop software for the platform. An example that is too often used from decades past is the old personal computer battles between Apple (closed source) and Microsoft (MSFT) (closed/shared source). Apple's environment was seen as closed and Microsoft's environment was seen as more open. Smartphones are basically mobile computers, so this analogy is somewhat fitting for the current smartphone BYOD debate.
Of the three smartphone manufactures mentioned in this article, Android is open source. Apple and BlackBerry are closed source devices. This is important to note for enterprises considering BYOD. A more open and accessible environment is wonderful for building market share, which is what helped propel Microsoft in the personal computer market. However, the bigger a company gets and the more ubiquitous its platform become, the more it becomes a target of malware (malicious software like computer viruses).
A recent study by Bit9 has shown that of the 400,000 apps that they tested on Google Play (the app store for Android), approximately 100,000 "may pose security risks". If this is extrapolated to the entire Android app population, this could mean 250,000 apps that are deemed unsafe. Of course, Google is vigilant in providing the safest environment possible, and they do regularly monitor Google Play. Google Bouncer is an in-house automated anti-virus system designed to remove malicious apps on the marketplace, and is credited with reducing malware by 40%.
Android Does Not Match the Microsoft Analogy
So, you may be thinking, "Well, if Microsoft was a more open environment and dominated business computing, then surely Android will dominate with open source phones." This I believe to be wrong.
The difference between Microsoft computer dominance and Android smartphone dominance with respect to BYOD, is that you never connected your personal home computer to your corporate network. Granted, there are people that work with laptops (either their own or a company laptop). However, for large organizations with many users on their networks, this is still the exception. Managing apps that are on your personal smartphone is a completely different issue, and a difficult one to navigate for corporate IT departments.
A risk announced by Symantec highlights how risky "open source" phones can be. The threat is called SuperClean, and will send contact lists, images, etc. to an external server. To directly quote the Symantec Blog post:
"In effect, SuperClean turns any Android phone into the equivalent of a compromised thumb drive. This means any employee who brings their Android phone into the office and plugs it into their computer to recharge could compromise their entire network. While we have seen malware that moves from PC to phone, this is the first time that we have seen malware that jumps from phone to PC. But this method is remarkably simple so I would expect to see it repeated in other malware."
Again, this is something that Google will have to work hard on to manage.
Apple is the Second Best, Closed Source Smartphone for BYOD
So, if you have read this far, then you must be thinking the obvious choice of the three platforms is Apple. Again, I would disagree. Although, there is no dispute that Apple makes quality products and do offer a plethora of apps, there is one thing that separates the new Z10 from the rest for BYOD: Balance Technology. The BlackBerry Balance Technology is a unique feature for smartphones, in that it will allow two environments for the phone to exist in - both a personal environment and a work environment.
What this means is that a user can bring in their BlackBerry Z10, and corporate IT will have complete confidence that the user's personal apps will not be able to access work related information. These environments will be kept completely separate from one another.
This functionality in the Z10 is what has led to recent large orders by such enterprise customers as the German Government. Reports indicate that the German Government has secured 40,000 enhanced Z10 smartphones at a cost of approximately $3,000 each (enhanced with a new micro-SD from Secusmart). The bigger picture is that these phones will meet NATO standards for security. NATO represents 28 governments throughout Europe and North America. This is a very strong endorsement for the Z10, in my opinion.
Why the BlackBerry Z10 is Your Best Choice for BYOD
Finally, I would like to summarize BlackBerry Z10 features (in order of importance) as they relate to BYOD. This list outlines why I believe the Z10 is your best choice for BYOD.
1. A Superior Closed Source Environment
This, without a doubt, is the most fundamental concern for BYOD (which has also been called Bring Your Own Danger). As the title of this article implies, 800,000 apps is not a good thing when it comes to BYOD environments. The BlackBerry Z10 has come to the American marketplace with approximately 90,000 apps that are developed for their closed source platform. Compare this to Android's 800,000 open source apps, and from a corporate IT perspective… you suddenly see real value in the Z10. This is a major disadvantage for the Android platform, and is the main reason the Z10 should be considered a superior product for BYOD.
2. Balance Technology
As I have mentioned earlier, this alone separates the Z10 from the iPhone (which is why I have placed it second on my list for BYOD). I feel that this functionality has not received enough attention and has been somewhat passed over. Balance Technology is fundamental to the BYOD trend - all BYOD phones should have this functionality. This allows users to bring their personal phones to work and have full confidence that their apps will not harm corporate IT networks, as well as maintain their privacy. You simply sign-in and out of each environment. This is like having two phones in one.
3. QNX Operating System
Third on my list (and my personal favorite), is the QNX operating system (OS). There is no point in listing phone features without also including a great operating system. The Z10 has the best OS on the market - hands down. What separates the QNX OS from Apple and Android is that it has a microkernel based OS. Apple iOS is a hybrid kernel and Android is a monolithic kernel. The significance of this is that BlackBerry Z10 developers are able to streamline applications making them much more efficient, reliable and secure.
QNX systems are found throughout the world, and through a wide range of products. Computer systems that cannot be allowed to fail use QNX, like nuclear power stations, automotive systems, 9-1-1 dispatch systems, etc. Car manufacturers like Acura, Audi, BMW and Porsche (POAHF.PK) use QNX systems to help run their vehicles. QNX systems are even able to park your car without you in it! The QNX OS is another reason why the BlackBerry Z10 is superior to Apple and Android products.
4. BlackBerry Protect
BlackBerry Protect is a great feature for BYOD usage. Should an employee lose their phone, they are able to access it remotely. They can either choose to lock the phone, or completely delete the contents of the phone (including the micro-SD card). Other options are the ability to locate your phone on a map, as well as calling your mobile network to take action on your behalf - great features for BYOD.
5. Premium Features like Hub, BBM, Multitasking, and Keyboard
These are more convenience features that are nice to have, and are not essential for BYOD consideration. The BlackBerry Hub allows the user to manage all of their messages in one location. Multitasking allows the user to run multiple applications at once. For example, you are on the phone but need to access your calendar - the Z10 will let you do this. Therefore, you are not required to close an application down to open another. I have also included links to the new BlackBerry Keyboard which has the ability to track the users typing behavior to assist in communication.
In closing, I would like to disclose that I currently own an Android product. I have been very happy with it as my personal phone. I have never owned a BlackBerry or Apple smartphone. I believe all three are quality products, however my intention with this article is to highlight why I feel the BlackBerry Z10 is a strong contender in the BYOD debate. I also feel that enterprise customers would be wise to continue to encourage BlackBerry products with their employees. With six BlackBerry 10 smartphones scheduled for release in 2013, there should be lots to choose from.
Disclosure: I am long BBRY.