Research In Motion is hoping that bridging the gap between personal and business phones will help revitalize its fortunes. It comes as sales appear to have flatlined in the US, although the company is having surprising success in Africa.
At its “BlackBerry Jam” event this week, RIM publicly demonstrated some of the new features in it’s forthcoming operating system BlackBerry 10. It’s designed for tablets and the next generation of smartphones, leaving plenty of numerical room for updates to its existing smartphones which are currently only on version 7.1.
The biggest development is a renewed push BlackBerry Balance, which is simply a way of running two user profiles on one handset and being able to flick back and forth between the two with a single click. In this case the idea isn’t two have two people using the device, but rather to allow one person to have a profile for work and a profile for personal use. The theory is that this gives more options for businesses either to save cash by allowing employees to use their own handset, or to give employees a work phone that they can use in their private lives as a perk.
The feature allows IT administators to control which applications appear on the business profile of the phone. They can also prevent the user copying the app over to their personal profile. Another benefit is that the business should be able to block or remotely delete apps and data from the phone if the employee leaves the company and keeps the handset, without automatically wiping out their personal settings.
As ZDNet previously pointed out, the feature could work particularly well on dual-SIM handsets, simplifying billing issues and removing fears that the employer could be “snooping” on details of the user’s personal calls.
It appears RIM may have been getting some good news out of the way before it’s scheduled financial report later today. At the time of writing analysts were predicting that subscriber numbers could be flat, with future quarters likely showing a drop in overall users.
Those numbers might already be on the decline if it wasn’t for successes overseas. RIM announced this week that 50 percent of all smartphones used in Nigeria are BlackBerry handsets. (There’s even a movie about what women in the country will do to get their hands on one.)
That’s a great position to be in given the number of smartphone users in the country is expected to grow from four to 25 million over the next five years.