BlackBerry has realized that in order to stay relevant the company must refocus on what it has always done best: delivering, first and foremost, enterprise messaging and productivity solutions. Once known as King of the Enterprise, the company’s recent announcements should give them a fighting chance at earning back that title – that’s if developers and third party consultants buy into it.
Of course, Blackberry is now dealing with a very different enterprise market, where BYOD [bring your own device] has become the dominant model. Whether you’re buying your own device or using a company supplied one, the key drivers for purchasers are strong email and personal information management software, a great phonebook and battery life of a full working day.
Having spent some time with the platform, here are the advantages I believe BlackBerry has on its side:
- The BlackBerry 10 platform: This robust platform is fast and highly responsive, putting BlackBerry on a competitive level with other competing smartphone OS platforms. It is built on QNX, which has been the leading software platform for the automotive industry for many years. This means that although it’s new as a mobile phone platform, unlike other new entrants it is far from being an immature platform.
- The lack of applications: Many see this as a weakness and a major barrier for the company, but I beg to differ. By not offering an overabundance of consumer apps, the company underscores its focus on the enterprise and productivity as its target market and shows decision makers that they are not getting lost playing the consumer hype game. Having the right apps that enhance the power of what is essentially a mobile productivity tool is much more important for BlackBerry’s target market than having 30,000 different wallpaper themes.
- The user interface: Blackberry’s new user interface has clearly been optimized around messaging with its unique hub set up which allows access to all your messages and conversations at any time, from any application. Also, the enhanced predictive text experience is simply a joy to use and is going to force a lot of companies to re-think how they optimize and speed up message input on their devices. Don’t be surprised if you find that new Z10 users are sending you long emails that you never thought possible for someone to write without a physical keyboard.
- Secure access and remote management: BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, the company’s new version of its Web-based mobility management software, allows an enterprise to remotely manage security settings for all employees’ smartphones and provide secure access to corporate data through the devices. BlackBerry Balance, a new feature, helps users keep their personal and work information in separate spaces on their phone (something that several companies have been trying to do without success on Android for some time). This feature works well and addresses a clear pain point for professional users. It’s this type of thought and attention to detail, geared toward the mobile prosumer, that will enable BlackBerry to regain its high value position in the enterprise market.
- Keyboard options: The few who have stuck with RIM through its fall from grace say the keypad is what sets the phone apart from the sea of touchscreen devices. The company’s announcement of both touchscreen and keypad models allows an option for both those who loved the old version and those who have been tempted by the Apple and Android products on the market. Another interesting aspect is the care and attention to detail in ensuring a strong level of commonality between the QWERTY and Touch models. This will enable users to seamlessly move between different form factors, which could prove invaluable in a world where people increasingly own multiple mobile devices.
- Cross Platform Integration: Perhaps more for the future, but QNX, the foundation of BB10 is still a leading OS for the automotive market. This will give BlackBerry the potential to develop innovative in-car experiences that could be highly attractive to the prosumer market. Seamless integration of voice, video and navigation experiences are still not where they need to be as a whole and no other company in the world owns the in-car and mobile device platform in the way that BlackBerry does.
I believe BlackBerry has some of the key ingredients necessary to win back the hearts of those customers who left them for the sleeker, more popular Android and Apple devices. However, Blackberry’s ultimate success will lie in whether or not developers who have shifted their attention to the more complex operating systems will support BB10. The fact that the company is no longer behind in the specification stakes – now using multi-core processors, high capacity imagers, full touchscreens, advanced graphics acceleration and a wide range of sensors – may help attract developers. But will it be too little too late? Only time will tell, but it is certainly fair to say that Blackberry has come out fighting above its weight and so far not disappointed.