BlackBerry Ltd. is looking to enter the communications platform business, with plans to sell its cloud-based BBM messaging tools to software and app developers.
The Waterloo, Ont. based software company announced Tuesday it will offer the BBM Enterprise SDK (software development kit), which lets developers incorporate encrypted messaging, voice and video calling, file sharing and real-time notifications into apps.
The subscription-based service could enable, for example, emergency room surgeons to send secure pictures of a patient to an expert in the field from an existing communications app, BlackBerry executives explained. They pitched the product as the most secure on the market at a time when businesses are increasingly worried about the security of communications.
“This is a brand new offering focused on a different customer set, the developer partner community,” chief operating officer Marty Beard said in a call with reporters. “Obviously we wouldn’t be announcing it if we didn’t think it was going to be material for the company and would drive some new growth.”
The new launch comes as BlackBerry morphs into a software company after admitting defeat in its hardware business. Profitability remains a struggle, as software revenue hasn’t been able to make up for the decline in hardware revenue. Still, CEO John Chen said in December that BlackBerry will make money this year.
Beard didn’t specify exactly how much money BlackBerry expects to earn from the new product or how much subscriptions will cost, but said that “hundreds and hundreds” of independent software vendors are looking for highly secure messaging in health care, law enforcement and financial services industries.
He claimed the platform is more secure than the service offered by Twilio Inc., a competitor in the space that is valued at approximately US$2.7 billion after its IPO last June. Twilio is ISO 27001 certified.
“The current market offerings just don’t provide the level of security and encryption for which BlackBerry is known and which we provide,” Beard said. BlackBerry says it has more security certifications than any other mobile vendor with more than 80.
When questioned about how secure the messaging service is, given BlackBerry’s history of handing data over to police, executives responded that BlackBerry will not hold the encryption keys for the new service so authorities would have to work with specific developers to get information.
BlackBerry plans to find new customers from the pool of developers that have already created third-party enterprise apps on its development platform.