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'Secure' biz app and data on mobes to fall under BES spell

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BlackBerry has built software to split apps and files on Android and iOS phones into so-called "Secure Work Spaces" to prevent workers from mixing business with pleasure.

These protected containers of data and applications will be managed by installations of BlackBerry Enterprise Server, effectively bringing BlackBerry OS 10's Balance feature - which also cleaves smartphones into work-safe and personal halves - to the forces threatening its future. Secure Work Space attempts to accommodate BlackBerry's rivals, which have gatecrashed what the smartphone maker considered a private party in the enterprise world.

BlackBerry's latest handsets include BlackBerry Balance, which allows the user to switch between work and home profiles. The business side remains under the control of your office sysadmin while the personal portion lies beyond his or her reach. This is designed for companies that issue everyone a BlackBerry handset, but such organisations are increasingly rare so extending the container concept to iOS and Android is a necessity for BlackBerry.

Secure Work Space won't be quite as elegant as Balance, which (for example) understands that one human can't be in two places at once so it won't let Home and Work appointments clash, but it will - we're told - provide a secure space in which applications are run and corporate data is stored, all in isolation from the untrusted operating system beneath.

But putting a secure space within an insecure environment is very difficult. Even Samsung isn't planning to put its competing KNOX system onto existing handsets, having declared it would require additional hardware - such electronics will be present in the Galaxy S4 (although may already have been snuck into a couple of Galaxy Notes).

BlackBerry reckons its reputation for security will engender confidence, and its skills in the area support that confidence, but it's still taking things slow with closed beta testing now and more details coming at BlackBerry Live in May.

It certainly seems as though secure containers are the preferred answer to the Bring-Your-Own-Device question: just managing each of those gadgets as one single handheld is not enough as enterprises and punters want to keep their own data private. Other device-management companies will respond with containers of their own, unless the narrowing field leaves just Samsung and BlackBerry competing for virtual space in business pockets. ®

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