BlackBerry showcases new iOS and Android-friendly BES 10 features

BlackBerry has treated users to a sneak peek at some of the enhancements in the pipeline for its newly launched Z10 smartphone device and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 10 product.

The smartphone maker, previously known has RIM, is planning to ramp up the amount of support BES 10 offers iOS and Android users by providing them with a dedicated workspace on their devices where corporate data can be securely kept.

The feature is called BlackBerry Secure Workspace and can be accessed on Apple iPhones by selecting an app on the home screen and logging in using a PIN code.

Android users simply need to double tap the home button on their devices to access a similar login screen.

The feature mirrors the BYOD-friendly BlackBerry Balance capability the firm debuted on the Z10, which allows users to separate personal and corporate information on the same device.

However, the firm stopped short of revealing when the functionality will be rolled out to users.

It was one of a number of features showcased to users during the opening keynote at the BlackBerry Experience Forum (BEF) in London today.

During the address, attendees were also shown another iPhone-friendly feature the company is planning to launch, which will allow users to securely connect to the BlackBerry infrastructure.

Lock downSecurity was a recurring theme of the keynote, with the firm's vice president of security product management and research, Mike Brown, claiming it is something that is in the company's DNA.

"Go back in time when BlackBerry first came to market in 1999, and the same message we got time and again was, no matter how exciting this technology is, if this puts my data at risk, I will not deploy it," said Brown.

The event is the first of many the company is doing across Europe over the coming months, which will see it reiterating the benefits of its new BlackBerry 10 platform to business users.

The company has seen its stronghold on the enterprise weaken in recent years, as rival devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung have found favour with consumers who have seized on their internet capabilities to access corporate email and other line of business apps.

The firm has also suffered outages, which left many in the UK unable to access email or make calls on their devices for several days back in October 2011, while the release of the Z10 was also delayed, all of which have taken their toll on its standing in the smartphone market.

The firm's CEO, Thorsten Heins, has gone to great lengths to acknowledge BlackBerry's shortcomings in recent years, while reiterating that the new devices would be worth the wait.

So far, reviews for the BlackBerry Z10, which went on sale in the UK at the end of January, have been largely favourable, with IT Pro's tech editor recently praising the device's messaging capabilities and its BB10 operating system.

The company also revealed at the event that, since its launch, around 1,000 apps are being added to the BlackBerry World App Store each day.

During a briefing with the press afterwards, Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management at BlackBerry, said the firm's devices should no longer be considered "dumb email terminals."

"[With the] BB10 we've done a lot to enable BYOD [within the enterprise] and empower users that have been given a corporate device," he explained.

"In years past, the word BlackBerry became synonymous with this dumb email terminal, whereas we had devices in the company that ran Twitter and Facebook and had great camera applications, for example.

"We know, if end users have choice, they will have full diversity [of devices in their environments] and we now have the ability [to cater for that]," he concluded.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.