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BlackBerry Recruits Major Partners in New Mobile Solutions Push

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BlackBerry Ltd unveiled its new mobile-device management and security platform on Thursday and struck wide-ranging partnerships to bolster its capabilities, sending its shares more than 6 percent higher.

BlackBerry said it would team up with Samsung to provide a "highly secure mobility solution" for Samsung's Android phones. The system couples the Canadian company's device management capability with the KNOX software embedded on Samsung's Galaxy phones and tablets, and will be available in early 2015, the companies said.

"The partnership with Samsung is a very big deal," said John Jackson, a technology analyst at IDC. "It's hard to imagine a partnership with more significant practical impact potential."

The new platform, the BlackBerry Enterprise Service, or BES 12, will allow corporations and government agencies to manage and make secure not only BlackBerry's mobile devices, but also those running on rival operating systems such as Google Inc's Android, Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows platform.

For the first time the platform will also be able to manage the use of medical diagnostic equipment, industrial machinery and motor vehicles.

"When we think of mobile devices today, we think of tablets, smartphones and laptops, but very quickly we are going to have sensors, medical devices and a variety of 'connected things', so we're positioning the platform to be able to handle all of those things as well," Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard said in an interview at the BES 12 launch in San Francisco.

BlackBerry also announced a BES12 deal with Brightstar, the world's largest wireless distribution company, and a tie-up with business software company Salesforce.com Inc that will let clients in healthcare and other regulated industries use Salesforce software to securely access data via the BlackBerry platform.

"It looks as though BES 12 ticks all the boxes," IDC's Jackson said. "The challenges are it is just a phenomenally competitive environment full of very capable, very well-capitalized big guys like IBM and SAP."

The new products and services are the backbone of BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen's plan to turn around the smartphone pioneer, whose devices have lost ground to Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy devices and a slew of other gadgets powered by Google's Android operating system.

While it is still a player in the smartphone business, BlackBerry is pivoting to focus on services and the demands of a large base of enterprise clients that are increasingly grappling with data security concerns.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said its customers have registered for five million BES licenses since a migration push was launched in March, with some 30 percent of these prospective clients moving from rival mobile device management platforms.

BlackBerry's Nasdaq-listed shares jumped more than 6 percent to as high as $12.05, their highest level since August 2013, soon after the news.

(Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Alden Bentley; and Peter Galloway)

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