BlackBerry to secure Microsoft documents, spreadsheets under new deal

Spreadsheet
Editor's Note

The Canadian Press reported on March 19 that BlackBerry Ltd. chief marketing officer Mark Wilson said the company's new technology is focused on about 40,000 business people globally. The company has clarified the remark to say it is aiming to market to decision-makers in about 40,000 businesses worldwide.

BlackBerry Ltd. is launching a new way to enhance the security of commonly-used Microsoft Corp. cloud and mobility software in response to increased customer awareness of the need to protect sensitive information.

The two companies jointly announced Monday that they've collaborated on a software bridge between Microsoft's suite of applications and BlackBerry's highly-secure operating environment for enterprises.

The bridge will provide various BlackBerry security features for Microsoft Word, Excel and other programs whether they're on smartphones, tablets or computers using major operating systems such as iOS, Android and Windows.

The new level of integration between BlackBerry and Microsoft software will provide a more precise way to decide who has access to documents, under what circumstances and for how long.

For example, an employee, consultant or supplier could get personal access to a spreadsheet or presentation for 24 hours but have no ability to forward it to anybody else.

BlackBerry chief marketing officer Mark Wilson said at a press briefing in Waterloo, Ont., that organizations are increasingly looking for ways to improve cybersecurity for a highly interconnected workforce.

"What we do ... is secure all of the communications and collaborations within those organizations," Wilson said.

As an example, he said, BlackBerry shares its product road maps with customers "but we actually have embedded security into the files, where they actually can't share those files with anybody outside of their organization."

In addition, BlackBerry will put a time limit on the shared documents and kill them off after a month.

"They don't have to kill it, we actually manage the rights of the document so the security travels with the document. So we can kill that document whenever we want."

He said BlackBerry's customers have long wanted to have that level of security while using Microsoft's software as it normally operates without the user knowing how secure it is.

"For them, they think they're using the regular Microsoft app. For the IT manager, they know behind the curtain what's actually happening."

BlackBerry Enterprise Bridge, the software that creates a connection to the Microsoft application environment, is undergoing final customer trials and will be sold on a per-user subscription basis when it's launched commercially. Final prices were not disclosed.

BlackBerry is not the company it was a few years ago when it was still the market leader in smartphones, before it was pushed aside by Apple's iPhone and various devices using the Android operating system.

Now the company gets about 75 per cent of its revenue from enterprise software, which is used by businesses, government departments, police, fire and other first responders and other organizations.

Wilson said BlackBerry's marketing strategy has also evolved, because it's trying to reach decision-makers in about 40,000 businesses about 40,000 business people globally rather than to billions of consumers.

"It will be better to use different tactics to go after the set of enterprises that we want to go after," Wilson said.

For example, BlackBerry will be holding a series of events in 10 cities, beginning with San Francisco on May 3 and ending with Amsterdam in June.

Ottawa is the second stop on the tour, on May 8, to address a largely government-oriented base. The only other Canadian stop is Toronto on May 10, where BlackBerry will address a broader client base.

While BlackBerry is just a fraction of the size of Microsoft, it retains a reputation for being a market leader in enterprise security – a feature of the BlackBerry phones that contributed to their success.