BlackBerry Unveils its Good Technology Integration Strategy: Hurry Up and Wait

Summary Bullets:

• BlackBerry is deliberately choosing a measured pace for its Good integration, eschewing aggressive competitors and patient investors.

• As the future platform combines BES and Good Dynamics, Good for Enterprise customers may find themselves on the outside looking in.

On a call for customers this week, BlackBerry offered a strategic update on its Good Technology acquisition, specifically focusing on the technological synergies between the two product portfolios, and the current and future value proposition for current and new customers. While the event was long on hype and short on technical detail, there were several notable takeaways.

Same security; now with apps: BlackBerry reaffirmed that its value proposition, security-centric mobility enablement, won’t change, but the addition of Good’s capabilities provides a clear path to “mobilize the enterprise” with a single platform that enables all workers to securely access apps, services, systems, networks and data from any endpoint, regardless of its OS, location or owner.

The combined platform will use be based on BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12 using BlackBerry’s device and application management, global network infrastructure, and other recently acquired technologies from AdHoc and WatchDox, and Good’s Good Dynamics Platform with its secure container, shared services (MAM, containerization, content, IAM, etc.) and Good-secured applications. The integration takes the best of both vendors, and rationalizes unnecessary pieces, like BlackBerry’s planned iOS containerization and Good’s MDM technology.

Expect a slow integration: One would think that it’d be in BlackBerry’s best interest to merge the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and Good Work product lines as quickly as possible, not only because failing to do so grants market leaders AirWatch (owned by VMware) and MobileIron the opportunity to extend their strategic and technical advantages over BlackBerry, but also simply to try to expedite the path toward new profits for faithful investors who’ve ridden out more downs than ups during a tumultuous few years of acquisitions.

Instead, BlackBerry Vice President of Corporate Strategy Jeff Holleran said the company plans to pace itself on product integration, offering small pieces in the near term like a unified client activation process and brokering the secure exchange of encryption keys over the BlackBerry infrastructure, but full integration will take place over an indeterminate period. Its rationale is to avoid an abrupt freeze in the development of the existing product lines, yet maintaining three if not four product roadmaps is overly ambitious. While this is likely lip service to placate existing customers, anything but a rapid integration doesn’t serve the combined business well and is a gift to competitors.

BlackBerry will move toward end-of-life for Good for Enterprise: To be clear, BlackBerry made no official announcement, but in September CEO John Chen clearly stated that a top short-term goal is to ensure the Good business turns cash-flow positive and is accretive to BlackBerry’s bottom line as soon as possible. Given Good has never been profitable and accumulated nearly $700 million in debt, this will require aggressive fat trimming.

One simple way to cut costs would be to cease new development of the legacy Good for Enterprise product. Good Work is newer and clearly superior to Good for Enterprise, particularly in regard to deployment and administration flexibility, user mailbox search and customization and the Work-only Launcher, a containerization capability for secure data sharing between Good-secured iOS and Android apps. During this week’s event, Chief Mobility Officer Brian Reed (formerly of Good) confirmed BlackBerry’s commitment to “maintain” Good for Enterprise, but admitted “Good Work is where the innovation is.”

Good for Enterprise customers would be wise to look closely at BlackBerry’s roadmap as it develops to determine whether it offers the best path forward, while competitors should aggressively court those customers while uncertainty is at its zenith.

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