Time for IT Departments to Pay Attention to BlackBerry Again?

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I remember the moment I got my first BlackBerry. It was at my second post-college job, and the first time I sent an email with "This message was sent from my BlackBerry," I thought I had made it. Fast forward a few years and my discarded BlackBerry and its charger were just two other items junking up my junk drawer. I haven't thought of BlackBerry since. Why would I? Most companies started issuing iPhones and Droids to staffs years ago, and I've personally been an iPhone user for the last four years. But with launch of the BlackBerry Z10 (touchscreen keyboard) and Q10 (hardware keyboard) today, maybe it's time to take notice again?

At least for IT departments, it might be.

The new devices are considered by many to be Blackberry's Hail Mary pass to stay alive in the competitive smartphone world. (After the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Blackberry went from having a 46 percent share of the market to 2 percent in just four years.)  And rather than creating a copycat iPhone, it wisely introduced some new features that might make the phone appealing to company IT departments again:

  • Flow and Peek: A big theme of the product launch event was that new BlackBerry caters to multitasking, socially connected people. Its "Flow and Peek" feature is a key part of that. The user interface makes it easy to move between applications without having to go through a home button, and all applications run in real time and can be easily minimized. For instance, you don't have to pause a video to view your email.  You can "Peek" at it through a quick swipe.
  • Hub: This management tool aggregates content from Facebook, email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and allows you to access and respond to any of these messages in one place.
  • Calendar: Your calendar is also integrated in the Hub. One of the features that might be particularly interesting to the enterprise is the amount of information it pulls on appointment attendees. Meeting a prospective client offsite? The meeting invite will include social media profile photos of the person, his/her recent online activity and your email correspondences.
  • Keyboard: BlackBerry has improved its touchscreen keyboard to make it easier to type on the go. For instance, when auto-suggested words appear, you can swipe toward the screen ("flick it") to accept it. Swiping left automatically deletes a word. There's also multi-language support for employees who communicate in more than one language.
  • BYOD security: One of BlackBerry's main goals with the 10 is to eliminate the need for people to have two devices. This version allows users to have two separate profiles, one for work and the other for personal, both accessible from the homescreen. This maintains privacy for employees while IT departments can still control the company part of the device, and company apps and personal apps are unified in one area in the user experience.
  • BBM Video Chat with Screen Share: Essentially, this is BlackBerry's answer to FaceTime but it also allows users to share their screens during a video conference. In the enterprise, people will be able share documents, spreadsheets, etc. in the real time using this feature. This could be especially exciting for small businesses.
  • BB Remember: This tool lets users easily flag URLs, emails and other documents and organize them into folders. It creates a single destination for all types of productivity content and syncs with Outlook tasks and Evernote.

Whether or not these features will be enough for IT departments to embrace BlackBerry again, the success of the Z10 and Q10 may still depend on what employees will demand. For instance, will people still want access to a larger variety of apps? What about the learning curve that comes with swiping gestures that don't mimic other devices? IT departments have time to weigh the pros and cons (and can read more about the pros on BlackBerry's site); the devices won't be available in the U.S. until March, although Canadians can get their hands on them on February 5.

Will you consider going back to BlackBerry? Let us know in the comments below!

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Dana Gagnon

Dana Gagnon is the Director of Branded Content at Pluralsight. After working for years in Chicago media, she joined the team in 2012 to continue bringing quality news, tips and more to Pluralsight's audience. Find her @ChicagoDana