Just prior to the launch of BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, Stephen Perciballi (@irondack) of Softchoice joined us here on the BlackBerry campus. As part of the BlackBerry Technical Preview program, Softchoice had the chance to get early access to BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10. We caught up with Stephen to get his thoughts on the experience. Check out the interview below for the full scoop!
Thanks for joining us today Stephen. Can you tell me about your role at Softchoice?
I’m the Practice Lead for Security at Softchoice, and mobility falls into the security practice – so we manage any security vendor and then all of the mobility centric vendors as well. We resell BlackBerry products and services, including deployments, integration services, and more.
Softchoice recently joined our BlackBerry Technical Preview program – can you share your experience setting up BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10?
So far the feedback that we got from IT was that the deployment of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 was extremely straightforward, and we know for a fact that it wasn’t very time consuming, so that was a great start. We did have the assistance of a BlackBerry engineer over the phone, but the whole thing only took a couple of hours and that’s including knowledge transfer. Once it was set up we were immediately able to begin provisioning devices.
Why get on board and why deploy BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10? Are you expecting to manage BlackBerry 10 devices and BlackBerry PlayBook tablets moving forward at Softchoice?
Absolutely. Our executives are actually all very big BlackBerry fans, and we anticipate that they’re going to want to continue to get the latest and greatest device. A lot of that trickles down, so we have a lot of devout BlackBerry users.
Are you seeing anticipation from Softchoice customers that you get setup with BlackBerry solutions?
I can tell you that my team is very customer focused, so while we manage the business, our real job is to help customers find the right solution. Every time you guys [BlackBerry] make an announcement, all of the competition comes to a halt. We can see it statistically; we actually categorize and classify our customer meetings to track the topics.
Before the announcement of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 there was a high volume of calls and meetings around “what should we do about mobile device management?” The word is now getting out and those calls and even requests for quotes from BlackBerry competitors have plummeted. I’d put it this way: counting BlackBerry out is like not drinking water because soda has more flavor. It’s absolutely ridiculous. BlackBerry is a force in mobility, and with BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 and gatekeeper for ActiveSync… That’s a game changer. Customers have existing relationships with BlackBerry, and so a simple upgrade that allows them to manage other mobile devices if they need to is a very compelling story.
Many customers that we talk to have been confused. There’s a lot of confusion out there and there are a lot of people trying to capitalize on the confusion, but it’s not really working. Customers have been waiting to execute on their mobility strategy, and they’re now able to do so with BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10. Doing an upgrade is a lot easier than firing up a new unknown solution.
How has your experience been with BlackBerry 10?
So far so good! Immediate reactions are similar for most people – it’s that traditional feeling that you get from most BlackBerry devices, that the hardware is beautiful. There’s really no question there. You pick it up and you think “Wow! It’s solid, it’s pretty, and I want it”. Just like it always has been. We use the story all the time with customers on the topic of BYOD: every time the new BlackBerry would come out, 35% of my fleet would be lost, damaged, or stolen because they want the new one so badly [laughs]. The same thing goes for this device.
My favorite feature is the ability to minimize apps with a gesture, swiping up from the bottom. I’ve been using other mobile platforms for years, and now I find myself trying that swipe up gesture on other platforms because it’s so intuitive and it’s so handy. I just can’t shake it. That’s definitely one of my favorites.
I do like how when you minimize apps they stay as these active frames. It’s nice to have a couple of things on that screen. I’m obsessed with knowing where my battery is at, and I’m obsessed with knowing what the weather is like, so having that is really great.
The Hub is very interesting for sure, having it built right into the device is incredible. Other platforms have an app that integrates a variety of accounts… But it’s kind of hokey and not everything looks the same. You still have to start an app, which is the fundamental difference. With Hub it’s a simple gesture that just takes you to where everything is. If you want to focus on your personal email for example, you can really narrow it down.
The web browser is very strong. In the beta program we didn’t have full access to all of the apps in BlackBerry World since it was pre-launch, and so there are a lot of things that I’ve been doing just in the browser. Everything that I do with my other platforms, I’m actually doing on BlackBerry 10, without apps, and just using the web browser. So far that’s been just as good.
Are you familiar with BlackBerry Balance? What’s your feedback as a mobility professional?
Balance is definitely something that customers are asking for more and more. Two years ago people would ask vaguely for MDM capabilities without knowing what they were asking for. Now, most people have a good idea that basic MDM solutions exist in general, but more so customers are now asking for containerization.
[Customers say,] “We want to be able to segregate work data and personal data so that we can be a little bit more granular. Maybe we can do a proper partial wipe where we really know for sure that the work data is safe.” Things like partial wipes have been available in a lot of MDM solutions, but there’s been nothing to prevent a user from mixing that data up, and as an administrator you would have no visibility into that. It’s simpler administration. Instead of securing and managing the entire device, we’re able to put the work stuff into the work area and we’ll secure and manage that. We couldn’t care less about other email accounts on the device. That level of flexibility is going to be very attractive to a lot of organizations for sure.
Where do you see the partnership between BlackBerry and Softchoice going in the future?
With BlackBerry we think at this point that things are actually going to take off. We’re very enthusiastic about the BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 launch. We now have the features that customers are looking for; the single management console to manage all platforms, and the gatekeeper feature – that was something we were really waiting for. We can know that no one is connecting to our infrastructure without going through BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.
BlackBerry 10 devices are devices that consumers are going to like; it’s a slick interface, it’s easy to use, it’s a sexy handset, and you’ve also got things like the camera app with time shift. It’s huge. Features like that will really attract more customers, as well as the video editing functionality. That’s how people communicate today. High definition and editing on a single device is really driving towards that convergence of client computing that people are looking for. There are a lot of cool devices, but to have all of this functionality in a single device is really great.
I’d love nothing more than to just have a single phone that I can carry around and use as my primary computing device. Having the ability to do a lot of that on BlackBerry 10 is very attractive to a lot of people.
Thanks for your time Stephen!