MWC 2014: BlackBerry announces new flagship Q20 smartphone, BES 12, eBBM suite for enterprises

BlackBerry has announced the release of a new flagship smartphone, a major upgrade to its BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) mobile device management (MDM) system, and a version of its BlackBerry Messenger mobile messaging system aimed at businesses.

The announcements were made at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, which is considered to be the largest annual trade show in the telecommunications industry.

The BlackBerry Q20, which supersedes the Q10 as BlackBerry’s flagship keyboard-based smartphone, features the reintroduction of ‘Menu’, ‘Back’, ‘Send’ and ‘End’ buttons, as well as the reintroduction of a trackpad.

The device also features a 3.5-inch touchscreen display and runs the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen says the design of the new device has been based on feedback from long-time BlackBerry users.

“In my first 90 days on the job, I consistently heard from our ardent BlackBerry customers that the hard buttons and trackpad are an essential part of the BlackBerry experience; that made their BlackBerry smartphone their go-to productivity tool. I want these customers to know that we heard them.

“With the BlackBerry Q20 smartphone, you’ll get the familiar hard buttons and trackpad that you want, along with the best email service, the best keyboard experience and the best battery life possible.”

In the mobile messaging space, increasingly of interest following Facebook’s $US16 billion takeover of WhatApp, BlackBerry announced the release of eBBM Suite, a suite mobile messaging system aimed at the enterprise market.

The first product in the suite, called BBM Protected, is aimed at regulated industries and uses symmetric encryption keys to protect messages between colleagues within an organisation, with employees still free to send BBM messages to colleagues outside their company.

BBM protected works both with newer BlackBerry 10 smartphones (including the Z10, Z20, Q5, Q10 and Q20), as well as with older BlackBerry OS devices without an operating system upgrade.

“BBM has always been an important tool for business users who want real-time messaging that is reliable, trusted and puts control of contacts and personal information in users’ hands,” BlackBerry global enterprise solutions president John Sims says.

“With the introduction of the eBBM Suite and BBM Protected, we will provide regulated industries and security-conscious organizations with a powerful and best in class instant messaging solution.”

In the MDM market, BlackBerry announced the release of BES 12, along with a new program called EZ Pass aimed at migrating businesses from earlier versions of BES and competing MDM systems.

BES 12 unifies BES10, which manages Secure Work Spaces in BlackBerry 10, Android and iOS, with BES5, which was used to manage older pre-BlackBerry 10 devices.

BES 12 allows businesses to connect mobile devices to the cloud, including support for a range of cloud environments, including on-premises, public cloud, private cloud and hybrid environments.

It also includes monitoring tools and systems for complete end-to-end management, the ability to develop and deploy securely connected mobile apps, and future proofing.

According to the company, a range of major businesses have upgraded to BlackBerry 10, including Italian Airline AirDolomiti, Italian bank Banca Ifigest, Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht, and fuel bowser manufacturer Tokheim.

Finally, the company announced increased support for Windows Phone, with the company set to roll out BBM for both Windows Phone 8 and Nokia X smartphones, with Windows Phone support also added for BES 12.

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