Cloud

Grasping for relevance, BlackBerry announces cloud service for managing mobile devices

Above: BlackBerry's new cloud service enables mobile management from afar

Image Credit: Eric Blattberg (Logo: BlackBerry)
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Our forecast shows dark days ahead for BlackBerry — and we’re not talking about the BlackBerry Storm. But this hasn’t stopped the ailing smartphone maker from unveiling a new cloud service for enterprises.

Announced at this week’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2013 event in Orlando, Florida, BlackBerry’s cloud service will enable companies to manage their employees’ iOS, Android, and BlackBerry devices and applications from one central hub.

Using the service, managers will be able to deploy, secure, and manage their employees’ mobile devices through the web-based admin console. They’ll also be able to compile custom public app libraries for their employees, tracking distribution and usage across all registered devices.

End users, meanwhile, will be able to perform certain tasks without administrator approval, like remote data wipes and password changes.

The service doesn’t require any special hardware or software, so administrators won’t need to be well versed in IT to use it, promises BlackBerry. The cloud service is expected to launch by the end of November with a single monthly subscription that covers both the license and tech support, a BlackBerry representative told VentureBeat.

“Offering an end-to-end mobile platform has always been part of our DNA,” said the representative. “We know that we are the most well-equipped to meet the demands of customers looking for a secure, multi-platform solution.”

BlackBerry’s new cloud offering reflects the company’s shift toward the enterprise and away from the consumer market, where it’s getting creamed by Apple, Samsung, and other smartphone makers.

BlackBerry expects to lose between $950 million and $995 million in the second quarter, the company revealed last month. As part of a plan to cut its operating costs in half by Q1 2015, BlackBerry will lay off 300 employees at its Waterloo, Canada headquarters this week, with another 4,200 workers next in line. Together, that’s more than 40 percent of its workforce on the chopping block.

Despite its dire financial situation, BlackBerry found a suitor in Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited. Fairfax, which already owns 10 percent of BlackBerry’s common shares, submitted a bid (preapproved by BlackBerry’s board) to buy the other 90 percent on Sept. 23.

If everything pans out following a due diligence period ending Nov. 4, Fairfax will pay current shareholders $9 a pop and take the company private. But the bid has faced some skepticism due to financing questions, according to Reuters, which reports that BlackBerry is in talks with Cisco, Google, and SAP about selling them all or parts of itself. (See Jack Gold’s guest post for more on what those companies would gain or lose by buying BlackBerry.)

To add to BlackBerry’s troubles, the company also faces a class-action lawsuit from a shareholder who claims the company misled investors about its future over the past year.

More about the companies and people from this article:

Research In Motion, Ltd., is a provider of wireless solutions for the mobile communications market. The company is the designer and manufacturer of the BlackBerry smartphone brand, and also creates touchscreen and mobile keyboard techn... read more »

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