BlackBerry BBM Protected secures IM, for a price

BlackBerry continues its enterprise focus with a more secure BBM platform, but whether IT will pay for secure mobile messaging remains to be seen.

A new, secure version of BlackBerry Messenger is sure to appeal to security-focused IT pros, but the price tag and device specificity may make it a non-starter for some.

In February, BlackBerry promised the eBBM Suite for highly-regulated industries including a new product to be called BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Protected. BlackBerry delivered on that this week with BBM Protected for devices running BlackBerry operating system 6.0 or later, or BlackBerry 10 devices in Regulated mode.

BBM Protected adds an extra layer of security for mobile instant messaging with an industry-standard FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic library. Users can send secure messages to others with BBM Protected both inside an organization and outside on a different BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) server with no federation required.

The same BBM application can message those with BBM Protected and standard BBM. As outlined by BlackBerry, when a user receives an initial message from a fellow BBM Protected user, they will be prompted to enter a special passphrase, which will only need to be entered once.

Secure browsing and secure messaging are important elements to EMM.

Eric Klein,
mobile analyst, VDC Research Group

In an enterprise setting, secure messaging has appeal as part of a bigger enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform and BlackBerry is as well positioned as any company to capitalize on that, according to Eric Klein, mobile analyst with VDC Research Group in Natick, Massachusetts.

"Secure browsing and secure messaging are important elements to EMM, particularly the [vendors] who have gone the container route and tried to put in all the core apps," Klein said.

The challenge for BlackBerry is to profit from a paid version of BBM -- at $29.99 per user per year -- when many consumer messaging platforms are free, according to Klein.

Although secure messaging may be desirable to enterprises, end users must want to use it in their business practices, according to Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Massachusetts.

"Corporations can dictate, but they can only dictate to a certain level and beyond that it's up to the users," Gold said.

For now, BBM Protected is only available on Blackberry devices. BlackBerry plans Apple iOS, Google Android and BlackBerry Balance releases for BBM Protected later this year.

In December, BlackBerry said it had 40 million iOS and Android BBM registrations. The company hasn't provided updated numbers for those devices, but said overall, BBM has over 85 million monthly active users.

This is the first product in the eBBM Suite that combines BBM features with enterprise-grade security, however outside of BBM Protected, no other products details have been outlined. BBM Protected doesn't require BES server hardware upgrades once the licenses are purchased and turned on in the BES console.

BlackBerry said it will also make the Amazon Appstore available on its devices when the BlackBerry 10.3 operating system is released this fall. This allows BlackBerry to focus on developing enterprise applications, according to the company.

BlackBerry's first quarter results for fiscal year 2015 were also released this week, showing a small drop in revenue from $976 million the previous quarter to $966 million. The company showed $3.1 billion cash and investments balance in Q1, up from $2.7 billion the previous quarter.

Although BlackBerry's adjusted operating expenses were reduced by 57% from the same quarter last year, these could be signs the company is turning around after many quarters of poor financials.

Jake O'Donnell is a news writer for SearchConsumerization. Write to him at jodonnell@techtarget.com and follow him on Twitter @JakeODonnell_TT.

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