How Will Samsung's Partnership with BlackBerry Impact Apple?

03/12/2015 02:42 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2015

At one time, it seemed as though Apple would crush Samsung at the enterprise level. Businesses were increasingly choosing Apple's mobile devices, lured in by the usability of the iPhone and iPad. But a new partnership with BlackBerry may give Samsung an edge in the market, especially with Samsung's focus on creating devices that appeal to IT security needs.

The partnership involves integrating Samsung KNOX with BlackBerry's much buzzed about new services: WorkLife by BlackBerry and SecuSuite. Businesses that choose Samsung as a provider will have access to a full suite of services specifically designed for the enterprise. This is in direct competition with Apple, which has not yet directly addressed some of these issues. Apple's deal with IBM is designed to meet enterprise needs, but the deal mostly involves assigning an account manager to enterprises for personalized support.

The Current Market

In recent years, the Android-iOS-BlackBerry battle has been an interesting one to watch. As of late 2014, though, Apple was winning in the enterprise, with 69 percent of new activations by platform for smartphones and 89 percent of activations for tablets. The surge was largely attributed to the September release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, with activations having dropped last summer.

On the other hand, BlackBerry has been struggling for years. The company's devices now make up only 2.4 percent of the smartphone market, despite efforts to reach out to the consumer market by creating a wide variety of form factors for its phones. Instead of continuing in that direction, BlackBerry has attempted to recapture the enterprise market it once dominated, citing enterprise trust as its edge.

Samsung and BlackBerry

This new partnership with Samsung allows BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) to increase the options available to its enterprise customers. Called BES12, the solutions will work on BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices, making them more secure. Samsung is integrating BES12 into its Knox security software, used to secure devices like the Galaxy S4 and Note 4 tablet. Earlier in 2014, a high-profile security flaw was found in Knox, Samsung is likely interested in restoring enterprise confidence in the platform.

The new WorkLife by BlackBerry solution allows employees to switch from "work" to "personal" mode on a device for making calls and sending texts. A personal line can also be added to a work device that eliminates the need for an employee to carry two devices around. SecuSUITE adds an unprecedented level of security to mobile devices, putting state-of-the-art encryption to use to keep devices safe from infiltration.

The Apple Implications

Apple, meanwhile, is working hard to address problems that have long existed in its support for the enterprise. For years, the iPhone operated as primarily a consumer-based product but as the iPad has grown more popular, more businesses have turned to Apple as a mobile provider. This has led to a growth in the use of iPhones at the enterprise level, leading Apple to beef up its support staff.

There are ways to separate work and personal device use on an iOS device, however. Using a free app called Divide for iOS, which allows a user to separate work and personal use on the same device. Work information is encrypted and subject to enterprise rules about password protection, while personal use is left up to the device owner. However, with Android's 2014 purchase of Divide, industry insiders have speculated that the app's days on iOS may be limited.

Apple's Enterprise Tools

Apple isn't completely without tools for enterprise security administrators, however. At the server level, administrators now have tools that they can use to set up multiple devices without plugging them into a computer. Previously, administrators had to install a profile on each device through a PC, which proved extremely time-consuming when thousands of devices needed to be set up at once.

The changes also allow administrators to set up profiles on devices that prevent users from removing restrictions. This gives enterprises greater control over their smartphones and tablets to protect the server from irresponsible behaviors. Both governments and companies also have access to easier licensing through Apple's Volume Purchase Program.

Apple's Likely Response

As anyone who has paid attention to Apple has likely noticed, however, the company usually responds to such innovations by creating something even better. Future iterations of the iPhone and iPad will likely include some form of work-personal separation, especially if Apple users lose access to Divide.

Currently, Apple is planning to reach out to business users through its upcoming smartwatch, which is expected to be especially appealing to busy professionals. At a glance, employees can see new emails or texts, allowing them to stay in touch with employees and colleagues throughout the day. While this may pose more problems at the enterprise level, since employees will be easily distracted in work meetings, it meets the needs of today's always-connected workforce.

Building a Better iPad

Apple is currently facing another problem. With so many competing devices, the company has seen a tremendous drop in iPad sales, attributed in part to the release of a larger iPhone last fall. Currently, the company is putting its hopes on the supersized iPad, which will have a screen sized at 12.9 inches. Since the iPad appeals to business users, the company is hoping a larger iPad will rejuvenate its enterprise tablet sales.

To better its chances of success, Apple initiated a partnership with IBM to develop software specifically geared to business users. In December, the companies reportedly released an impressive group of apps that impressed insiders. The new apps include:

  • Flight planning for airlines
  • Client analytics for financial advisors
  • Analytics for insurance agents
  • Workload planning for case advisors
  • Crime prevention for law enforcement
  • Sales assistance for retailers
  • Inventory management and order fulfillment for retailers
  • Tech support software through FaceTime for IT providers

Through these early offerings, it's clear Apple is reaching out to enterprises at the end-user level, replacing pen-and-paper processes with iPads. These front-end solutions only highlight the increasing need for a way for businesses to better control their employee-issued devices, however, and it's a problem Samsung and BlackBerry appear willing to address.

Joining In

Instead of battling Samsung and BlackBerry, however, Apple may choose to simply direct enterprise administrators toward BES12, since the technology is available to iOS users. The BES12 Client for iOS is available at no cost in the iTunes store. Once installed, it integrates with either BES10 or BES12, which has a per-device subscription cost.

Once installed, administrators will have access to advanced BlackBerry features. Using WorkLife by BlackBerry, administrators can add a corporate number to an iOS device, separating the phone just as it would separate it when built into an Android. Advanced security features are also available for iOS, including the ability to set aside a workspace on a device without impacting personal features on the phone.

As the war for the enterprise market continues, businesses will likely see an increasing number of apps and options that make managing devices easier. If the Samsung-BlackBerry partnership pushes Apple to work a little harder to develop better enterprise products, organizations will benefit. Employees will benefit, as well, since they'll no longer be required to carry personal and business smartphones with them as they move from work to home and back again.