Last night BlackBerry demoed what it's calling BlackBerry Balance, a clever way of separating one's personal and work lives in one device. You don't see it as much these days but carrying two phones — one for business, one for pleasure — was commonplace not too long ago. I remember having a BlackBerry 6200 alongside my Sidekick 2; and I'm sure a lot of you remember those days as well.
But now that smartphones have been ingratiated into corporate IT infrastructures with beefed up security protocols, the need for work-issued BlackBerries has been on the decline. Not to mention the fact that it's cheaper for employers to just have you use your own phone and pay for it yourself. Now you can have both your work and personal lives live on one single device.
Great, right? Eh. Not really
Don't get me wrong, I like not having to carry around two devices but now, when I look at my phone, the lines between work and pleasure are blurred beyond recognition. Which is why Balance seems like a neat feature if executed properly. Others have tried this before, and failed. But this is RIM BlackBerry; if there's any one company that understands enterprise and the need for security, it's the folks in the Great White North.
For example, back in 2010, T-Mobile came up with myModes for its line of myTouch devices in the US.
The core problem with myModes is that it didn't go deep enough. Switching between profiles based on time or location simply wasn't enough. Corporate secrets could still be accessed across each profile whereas Balance locks you into one profile at a time and does not allow for anything living in one profile to leave said profile.
More recently (and by recently I mean last summer), a network in the US packaged together a product for enterprise called Toggle, which by the looks of it does exactly the same thing as Balance.
Toggle apparently works with Android and iOS and was supposed to be rolled out to support Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 by the end of last year.
The idea of having a harmonious work-life balance on a smartphone hasn't ever been fully realised because none of the aforementioned ideas were ever baked into the OS. Balance, though, is baked in with each profile existing in its own sphere. For example, an IT manager can wipe the enterprise side of an employee's device if that person decides to leave the company without ever touching the personal side.
Even if BlackBerry 10 sucks as a whole, it seems like it's nailed at least one thing. Whether it's enough to pry your fingers off of your iPhone, Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy S III is a whole other matter.