Research In Motion Ltd., VMware Inc. and Red Bend Software Inc. are working to give phones a split personality, seeking an edge in the emerging market for tools that let employees use their own gadgets on the job.
RIM in coming weeks will unveil an enhanced version of BlackBerry Balance, software to help employees seamlessly use their smartphones and tablets for work tasks without compromising their privacy. The software also promises to help businesses cut security risk and save money on hardware and device management.
VMware and Red Bend are also building products for the estimated 28 percent of workers who use personal electronics for work, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The market for such software and related products reached a projected $67.2 billion in 2011.
“We think there’s a seismic shift in terms of usage paradigm,” said Srinivas Krishnamurti, a senior director for mobile solutions at VMware. “The old school of management of the devices doesn’t quite work.”
The stakes are especially high for RIM, which has been struggling to compete with Apple Inc. and Google Inc. in smartphones. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company, whose products were once the leader among corporations looking for the most secure system, saw total subscribers drop to 79 million in the quarter that ended Dec. 1, from 80 million in the previous period. RIM is introducing BlackBerry Balance as part of the new operating system that is set to be released on Jan. 30.
Dual-identity phone products have the potential to reduce the risk and cost to businesses of letting employees use their own phones and tablets for work. Monthly charges for these devices are typically 14 percent higher than for corporate-issued devices, an Aberdeen Group survey of 100 businesses found last year, and the use of personal devices can also expose companies to more security threats.
VMware’s dual-use software runs on Google’s Android mobile platform and will let one phone act as two: With the tap of an icon, the phone’s home screen will switch from showing personal wallpaper, contacts, schedule and applications such as Facebook Inc. to a business screen, with only an employer’s apps and contacts, all secured and managed by corporate engineers.
In addition to RIM and VMware, 13-year-old Red Bend also has a new software tool that it expects to be part of several phones labeled “enterprise-ready” and sold in carrier stores this year, Red Bend Executive Vice President Lori Sylvia said.
The new tools all have the ability to segregate personal and business information on one device. They can restrict corporations’ ability to access employees’ personal data, such as texts, photos and posts on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter Inc., ensuring greater privacy. They also let companies wipe business data from the phones remotely -- when an employee resigns, for example -- without damaging personal content or apps on the device.
One potential downside for employees: if the phone breaks, it’s still your personal phone, which means workers would be responsible for getting it fixed, unless the company has a repair or replacement policy.
Even so, installing dual-personality software may emerge as the most popular way to make devices serve both purposes, said Chenxi Wang, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Favored by VMware and Red Bend, the software approach works by putting business applications and data on a second, virtual operating system on the phone. Corporate data and apps are completely walled off from the rest of the device.
Still, this method means consumers may need to check two separate calendars and e-mail accounts. And for now, Red Bend’s product and VMware’s double-duty mobile software, called Horizon Mobile, will only work on Android devices. VMware is developing a version for Apple’s iPhones and iPad tablets, Krishnamurti said.
VMware is working with Verizon Wireless, LG Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. to bring Horizon Mobile to the U.S. market. The partners haven’t disclosed when the first phones with the software will be available. Red Bend expects devices with its virtual operating system to hit stores this year, Sylvia said.
Such split-personality phone and tablet software -- just one piece of the spending by corporations and individuals to enable work-related use of mobile devices -- could spawn a new, $1 billion market in as little as five years, Wang said. Eventually, sales could rival the multibillion-dollar market for software used to let corporate engineers remotely manage a company’s PCs, she said.
“It will empower more workers to bring their own phones,” Wang said. “We could see a huge upswing in adoption.”
Spending by corporations and employees on hardware, software and services related to personal devices used for work will reach $181.4 billion by 2017, more than doubling from 2011, according to researcher MarketsandMarkets.
VMware hasn’t made the cost of Horizon Mobile public. Red Bend said it plans to charge device makers a royalty for preinstalling its software.
“We firmly believe dual-persona is what the market needs,” said Ki S. Kim, corporate vice president of enterprise mobility solutions at LG. In the future, LG may preinstall the software on some of its phones, he said.
To address the issue of separate calendars and e-mail accounts, RIM has proposed a different technical approach with BlackBerry Balance. The tool combines personal and professional messages, calendars and contacts on the mobile device, instead of cordoning them off and making a user toggle back and forth.
“If I know someone personally and professionally, I don’t want to see them two or three times” on contact lists, said Jeff Holleran, senior director of enterprise product management at RIM.
The new products from RIM, VMware and Red Bend will also compete with offerings from Good Technology Inc., AirWatch LLC, MobileIron Inc., Citrix Systems Inc. and Enterproid Inc. Each company offers a different way to secure and manage corporate applications and data without creating a second, virtual operating system -- usually by having users download an app that grants corporate technology departments access to the device.
“People have single lives,” said Alan Dabbiere, co-founder of AirWatch. In one configuration of AirWatch’s software, users can download an app that lets corporate engineers set up a secure connection to business data, give access to company apps or detect hackers.
While rivals in the burgeoning bring-your-own-device market are taking different tacks, the reality is that most corporations will need many types of software to manage their diverse mobile fleets, said Mobeen Khan, executive director for AT&T Advanced Mobility Solutions, which has agreements to resell mobile corporate software products from Enterproid, VMware and OpenPeak Inc.
“We are looking to take the best-of-breed solutions and integrate them,” Khan said. “Outside of devices, this is one of the fastest growth areas for us.”
Handset makers are also aiming to provide an array of mobile device-management software. LG, for example, works with a number of partners, including VMware and Open Kernel Labs Inc., which was acquired by General Dynamics Corp. in September. Open Kernel provides mobile-device security to public-safety and military customers.
With corporations likely to adopt a variety of technology approaches, consolidation in the industry may continue, said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at researcher Gartner Inc.
“I fully expect a number of the other players to combine,” he said. “Companies don’t want to buy a bunch of products from different little companies.”