Vendors at RSA tout BYOD solutions - RIM already solved that problem
I just spent the week in San Francisco at the RSA 2012 security event. All the usual suspects in the security arena were in attendance. It seemed to me that the #1 theme of the show was the issues around bring your own device (BYOD). Enterprise end users are doing everything they can to be productive, and that has lead to buying their own phones, tablets and applications to get their job done. Security professionals are scared as hell about the risks of corporate data moving to unmanaged devices. Every security company is looking for a solution to let employees BYOD while insulating the corporation from risk.
Ironically, I've been using a Blackberry Playbook for a few months now. I actually carried it around the RSA show floor to show customers Frost & Sullivan’s video capabilities. It did that well. Blackberry has bet a lot of time, effort and focus on this device and the hard work is evident in the finished product. Blackberry markets the Playbook as an enterprise tablet, and the hardware is really well done.
When the Playbook was first launched, my initial reaction was that the lack of a native e-mail client was "Stupid". I was flat out wrong. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Playbook is the Blackberry Bridge. Supporting a breadth of devices is expensive. Employees running around with huge amounts of corporate information on their personal device, then leaving it at Gourmet Haus Stadt, Cava22, or any other bar is a security nightmare. RIM has figured out a way to solve that problem.
RIM has designed the Blackberry Bridge so it can tie a Playbook to a corporate managed blackberry smart phone. A users that buys itself a Playbook simply installs the bridge application on their smartphone, then takes a picture of a quick response code displayed on the Playbook and the devices are linked. Apple is eating everyone's lunch in the IT world largely because all their device "just work" together. RIM has emulated that perfectly, Playbook and my Bold just work.
The process can be further simplified if BES administrators push the bridge application out to all their users proactively. We recommend that BES administrators push the bridge application to all their Blackberry smart phone users. BES Administrators should make it easy for their users to BYOD a Playbook. We feel that tablet users on a Playbook are much less of a security risk than users with another brand of tablet doing enterprise tasks. Why do we say that?
Once a Playbook is linked to a Blackberry smartphone with the Bridge application, all e-mail, files, or other corporate data that is accessed through the Bridge is stored in an encrypted partition of the Playbook. If the user loses the Playbook, but doesn't lose their phone, whomever has the Playbook cannot access the corporate data. If the user loses both the phone and the Playbook, the BES administrator can use the BES tools to disable the phone, and by proxy disable any access to the corporate data on the Playbook. Its the kind of IT elegance that makes administrators happy. It’s the kind of security that lets corporate risk officers sleep at night.
Unfortunately the Playbook isn't without its blemishes. It does a lot of enterprise tasks that I want to do, browse the web, show customers presentations at trade shows, play angry birds on a plane, but its lack of native enterprise apps becomes obvious very quickly. There aren't enterprise apps available for Frost & Sullivan's CRM system or other leading CRM systems. Major conferencing and collaboration vendors have native apps for iPad and in some cases android tablets. The business application category on the App World cupboard is quite bare. RIM is at a critical crossroads right now, they can't make many more missteps. Additionally RIM has some very strong application development capabilities. We see developers 1st writing for iOS, then Android, then rarely for Playbook. With RIM's focus on enterprise, it may be a good strategy for RIM to develop certain key enterprise applications on its own and give those apps to the relevant stakeholders.
Playbook OS 2.0 was released just before RSA, but the Blackberry Bridge has been solving RSA 2012’s biggest issue for over a year now. To reiterate, Bridge just works. Bridge solves one of enterprise’s biggest problems of the day. Blackberry lets users BYOD, without creating undue risk. Administrators should want end users to BYOD the playbook. The ball is now in RIM’s court to make end users want to BYOD the playbook.