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BlackBerry to let rival companies in on device management in workplaces

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WATERLOO, - BlackBerry says it's opening its current smartphone operating system to competitors such as IBM, AirWatch and Citrix, allowing them to manage BlackBerry 10 devices in corporate workplaces.

The Waterloo, Ont., technology company says the three big companies have expressed an intention of working with BlackBerry (TSX:BB), which will mean BlackBerry will give up exclusive control of its corporate smartphone management.

BlackBerry has seen a number of corporate clients turn to other companies for similar device management support after some complained about how expensive it was to use BlackBerry's services. The company is also facing the challenge of business users wanting to use the device of their choice at work.

Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) and Royal Bank (TSX:RY) switched part of their smartphone management systems to a competitor in 2013.

In the United States, even more customers have opted to completely sever ties with BlackBerry, including drug giant Pfizer Inc.. Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department has stopped exclusively using the company for its device solutions as part of a contingency plan for a worst-case scenario of BlackBerry shutting down.

A number of competitors have aggressively promoted their services as an alternative to BlackBerry, including device management companies like Atlanta-based AirWatch, which offers services for secure devices, apps and data in the workplace.

"Offering the end-to-end secure solutions valued by our customers in government and other regulated industries remains central to our strategy; however BlackBerry understands the opportunity and importance of opening our BlackBerry 10 software," said Ron Louks, president of devices and emerging Solutions at BlackBerry.

"This is a natural next step in our enterprise strategy as we seek to provide our customers with maximum choice in how they will meet the full array of employee mobility needs," Louks said in a statement on Tuesday.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen was hired last November to turn around BlackBerry, which has seen consumers leave in droves for Apple iPhones and Android smartphones, and many businesses also jump ship. He has moved to reduce costs, partly through layoffs and to find new ways to capitalize on BlackBerry's technology.

Chen has also said the smartphone maker would return to its roots with a focus on business users.

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