BES 10 also offers a way for businesses to manage apps that workers get through the BlackBerry World for Work online store. IT shops can push and install mandatory apps to employees, whether they use corporate-owned devices or their own. In addition, BES 10 is integrated with Active Directory and can help provide VPN and encryption security to devices.
The software includes new BlackBerry Balance technology, which allows for two different secure spaces within the device OS to separate corporate from personal data, said Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management at RIM. "The feedback from hundreds of enterprise customers who tested it is that this a big win for them," Holleran said.
When a user of a BlackBerry 10 device searches through email and other messages, Balance makes it possible to see work and personal emails simultaneously, while the two versions of an inbox (personal and corporate) are segregated on the OS. Holleran called that Balance functionality unique.
RIM cited two customers who have tested the new software. One, The Co-operative Group in the UK, describes BES as offering a refined user interface that lets users switch between apps and content on the personal and work profiles within Balance.
The Balance technology is seen as useful if a device is lost or stolen and must be wiped (through BES 10) of vital enterprise content. When an employee leaves a job, he can keep his personal data on his personal BlackBerry 10, while the corporate data is wiped free, Holleran said.
Peter Lesser, director of global technology at legal services firm Skadden, said in a statement that he plans to implement BES 10. He said it's mainly due to its ability to manage devices running multiple operating systems.
Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said the ability to manage multiple platforms and to separate corporate and personal data should lower device costs of ownership while providing a secure and user-friendly approach.
The question of whether BES 10 can help RIM regain lost market share remains unanswered. Most analysts are convinced that RIM failed to keep market share by losing customers who wanted better touchscreen devices like those from Apple and Samsung, among others, that offered better browsers.
The Jan. 30 smartphone launch could help answer questions on RIM's future. Meanwhile, some current BlackBerry users still want a physical keyboard, and RIM plans to offer one running the new OS, as well as a touchscreen model. Photos of both have circulated in recent months, though RIM hasn't said whether they are accurate.
"RIM can't make a go of it simply on their BES software," Gold said. "RIM's turnaround will be dependent on the acceptance of the new devices. Mobile Device Management is not enough, unless RIM wants to get out of the hardware business and drastically downsize, which it does not."
By allowing an IT shop to simultaneously manage Android, iOS, and BlackBerry devices, BES 10 means an IT shop will be under less pressure to remove RIM devices from its infrastructure, Gold predicted. Also, Gold said organizations will want to install BES 10 to get full management capability of the new smartphones. Competing mobile device management products, such as those from Good, or VMware or Red Bend will support the new BlackBerry smartphones, though BES 10 will be able to manage them more completely, Gold said.