BlackBerry COO Marty Beard talks cross-platform strategy, IoT and more with Mobile World Daily

Although BlackBerry specific news coming out of Mobile World Congress 2016 has arguably been light, BlackBerry is there showcasing their strong enterprise solutions covering EMM, secure messaging and IoT. Mobile World Daily, the official publication of the Mobile World Congress which gets written, produced and distributed as the event goes on recently caught up with BlackBerry COO Marty Beard for an interview to discuss all things BlackBerry.

MWD: What is the key for BlackBerry to be successful in Its ongoing turnaround strategy? How is It progressing and what is the overall goal?

Marty Beard: BlackBerry is well into its turnaround. We are capitalising on growth opportunities and key market trends, including mobile security, proliferation and management of endpoints, and multi-OS environments. Everything BlackBerry focuses on today is around a multi-OS world — this is key. And, in the last quarter, we were very pleased to see this strategy come together, reporting strong year-over-year increases in our software and services revenue. Capitalising on growth opportunities is critical. We know our strengths, and that's leading in mobile enterprise security innovation and multi-OS platforms. That's why we've made strategic investments in this area, including the acquisitions of Good Technology, Secusmart, Watchdox, AtHoc and Movirtu. We've wasted no time integrating technologies from these acquisitions by developing a unified enterprise mobility platform. Beyond enterprise mobility management, BlackBerry's philosophy is to always innovate in key technology areas such as self-driving cars and consumer healthcare apps and devices, including our latest smartphone, PRIV by BlackBerry.

MWD: It's been around three months since the Good Technology deal completed. What does Good Technology bring to BlackBerry that it didn't have already? How will it help with BlackBerry's goals in working cross platform?

Marty Beard: We've made fast strides with folding in Good's technology into a comprehensive solution — and have already released an integrated multi-OS EMM platform. BlackBerry's strategy is to offer customers the most complete, end-to-end solution to secure the entire mobile enterprise, across all platforms. Good expanded our ability to offer a unified, secure mobility platform with applications for any mobile device on any operating system. The Good and BlackBerry product platforms are actually very complementary: they marry BlackBerry's leadership in MDM, app management and secure connectivity with Good's leadership in mobile containers, productivity suite, service management and secure application SDKs. What we did was create a higher-value solution with the capability to expand well beyond EMM, collaboration and application enablement.

MWD: In terms of bolstering customer base, how is BlackBerry supporting growth in major verticals like aerospace, defence and healthcare as a result of the acquisition, where Good Technology also appears strong?

Marty Beard: BlackBerry secures the mobile communications of the some of the largest healthcare services, banks, automotive and governments across the globe, as well as leaders in aeronautics, astronautics and defense, including the Airbus Group. The regulated industry trusts BlackBerry because they have the most stringent security demands. Security has always been one of the biggest challenges for CIOs, and we deliver on meeting that challenge. That said, Good has helped us to improve our cross-platform capabilities and enhance our EMM solution so that customers do not have to compromise on their choice of operating systems, deployment models or any level of privacy and security.

MWD: How is BlackBerry's growing service portfolio and product base contributing to its ambitions around IoT?

Marty Beard: The world is quickly evolving where mobile endpoints are everywhere, and each endpoint is collecting and transmitting data through the cloud. Major endpoints such as this include cars as well as asset tracking sensors. This is where IoT becomes a big opportunity and growth engine for BlackBerry. That's why we have built the loT platform with an initial focus on the automotive and asset tracking industries. And, cars are a great example of how we're already leading in loT. Some cars already have connectivity built-in, but most are not truly connected. QNX technology allows BlackBerry to securely enable the connected car: from infotainment systems, digital instrument clusters, telematics, and over-the-air updates to advanced driving assistance systems and in-car acoustics. Early this year, BlackBerry announced two new software platforms: one that can speed the development of automated driving systems, and one that can transform how acoustics applications are implemented in the car. Beyond the automotive industry, BlackBerry's ambition for the future is to help customers quickly scale their mobile environments and transform traditional MDM deployments to mission-critical mobile hubs that will ultimately manage an loT world.

MWD: How will security feature in BlackBerry's IoT efforts given the company's recent investments?

Marty Beard: We live in a hyper-connected world of people and things. It's essentially become conventional wisdom that loT will change cybersecurity forever, and we agree, as do leading analysts such as Gartner. This is a significant issue. If we think that we have a problem now with a few billion devices connected to the internet, imagine how that problem scales when we get to tens or hundreds of billions of end-points. Over time, many of the devices we now see as single-purpose, static and standalone will increasingly become multi-purpose, dynamic and networked. Billions of "things" — from cars and shipping containers to kitchen appliances and hospital beds — will absorb, generate and share data. Each new connection presents a potential security weak spot. BlackBerry's expertise in EMM, technology assets such as the QNX OS and renowned experience in running a global secure network, ensure it is well positioned to help businesses solve the complex problems of the loT era. This includes managing, updating, and protecting millions of remote, field-deployed devices while enabling all ecosystem stakeholders to retain full control of their data and privacy.

One of the key highlights of this interview for me is the note that Beard makes about BlackBerry knowing their strengths. For a while, it seemed as though BlackBerry had no real direction, no real path and with that no ability to make use of any growth opportunities. That appears to have changed now and with the company 'well into its turnaround', they've found a path and are sticking to it. Even if a lot of folks are still looking at BlackBerry as a company that only offers smartphones when in reality, it has become so much more than that with their new direction.

Read the full interview with Mobile World Daily [PDF]