'Dual personality' could morph into Jekyll and Hyde for Samsung and BlackBerry

Balance and Knox server-side software face adoption uncertainties, delays

BlackBerry and Samsung have separately launched security and management software with dual-personality features for their latest Z10 and Galaxy S4 smartphones, both designed to meet the demands of a growing BYOD marketplace.

Yet, it still isn't clear when either company will make an impact with its products -- a software package called Knox for Samsung and Balance for BlackBerry.

Dual-personality software keeps personal and work data separate on a smartphone, allowing an IT shop to quickly delete sensitive corporate data from a worker-owned smartphone should the worker lose the device or leave the company.

The problems with both the Knox and Balance products apparently resides with delays in implementations of server-side software to give IT shops or wireless carriers the controls they need over users' smartphones, analysts said.

Samsung recently installed Knox in the firmware of its latest Galaxy S4 smartphone, which started shipping last weekend. But Samsung also admitted in a recent statement that the activation of all the features of Knox won't be available until "a later date," depending on activations of server software by its distribution channels, which includes hundreds of wireless carriers that support Samsung products.

BlackBerry jumped on Samsung's delay and on Monday boasted that BlackBerry Balance "remains the market's most trusted and secure BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) solution and is available now ... Nothing is more secure than a BlackBerry device running on the BlackBerry platform. Nothing."

Despite BlackBerry's claims about Balance, analysts wonder how many carriers or enterprises have installed and activated the server-side software that supports Balance, called BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10. BlackBerry didn't respond when asked to comment on the number of BES 10 activations or how far along it has gone in working with carriers to support small business users of Balance that don't have IT shops.

BlackBerry said in its latest earnings call that it expects a small decline in services revenue to 35%, down from 36%, of all revenues in the first quarter. That decline has prompted questions about the number of carriers and enterprises that will be installing BES 10, which is essential to making Balance function.

Many enterprises are side-stepping BES 10 altogether in favor of smartphone management features contained in Exchange ActiveSync, said Bob Egan, an analyst at The Sepharim Group.

Aside from Balance capabilities, some BlackBerry Z10 smartphone buyers are raising a different question. They want to know when it will be possible to sync from their desktops all their Outlook contacts, tasks, notes and calendars to the new Z10 or the coming Q10.

The inability to fully sync with Outlook functions has outraged some users on various BlackBerry forums, including the BlackBerry Support Community Forums.

The sync problem also caught the attention of independent analyst Jeff Kagan, who said he has continued to use an older BlackBerry Torch smartphone instead of a new Z10 because he can't sync up his desktop with Outlook Notes and MemoPad, which he has used for years.

"BlackBerry must hang on to existing customers and add more," Kagan said in an email. "Not offering this service to existing customers is a big warning sign to users."

When asked about the sync problem with Outlook, a spokeswoman said via email that an updated version of BlackBerry Link will "come out shortly to allow contact sync with Microsoft Outlook." She didn't elaborate. Some analysts suggested more details might be revealed at the BlackBerry Live conference in mid-May.

The delays at Samsung with Knox and possible adoption problems for BES 10 used with BlackBerry Balance, along with the sync problem with Outlook and BlackBerry 10 smartphones, could be temporary and short-lived, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

"Some users will be understanding of delays and some won't," Gold said, referring to both companies. "It also makes a difference how the company addresses these things. If you ignore complaints, you risk losing control of the situation and having it get overblown in the blogosphere. If you handle the complaints honestly and tell users what to expect and when, you usually don't have long-term damage."

This article, 'Dual personality' could morph into Jekyll and Hyde for Samsung and BlackBerry, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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