No company has had more of a Perils of Pauline lifestyle during the modern telecommunications era than BlackBerry. It was king, fell to the very bottom of the barrel (to a point where its demise was expected on an almost weekly basis) and found a way to hold on. The long-term survival strategy is to transform from a hardware company to being primarily a supplier of enterprise software and security tools.
Luckily for BlackBerry, mobile security is a huge challenge. Even in its worst days, experts didn’t doubt the quality and sophistication of the company’s enterprise management technology. The fact that those platforms are so sorely needed gave BlackBerry something that most fallen giants don’t have: viable options.
The transition to a software supplier, which is already deeply established, took another step forward with the introduction on December 8 of BlackBerry Secure. The platform, according to the company, integrates elements from the acquisitions of Good Technology, WatchDox and AtHoc and Encription. The goal is ambitious: It aims to secure and manage what BlackBerry calls the Enterprise of Things, which is a cute marketing label for “devices, computers, sensors, trackers, equipment and other ‘things’ that communicate with each other to enable smart product development, distribution, marketing and sales.”
In other words, BlackBerry wants to secure and manage the whole enchilada. The platform, at least as it is described in the press release, makes no distinction between wired and wireless or from traditional to new elements, such as the sensors used by the Internet of Things (IoT).
This can be of great value to horizontal verticals such as finance and health care. In these categories, devices and data must be secured and managed for a wide array of locations, utilizations and use cases. In health care, for instance, patient data must be protected from patient devices (such as heart and glucose monitors), clinicians, billing departments and elsewhere. It’s not surprising that Seeking Alpha reports that BlackBerry is going after the medical device security sector.
BlackBerry is not, however, completely out of the hardware sector. It had a big hit with the Priv, which used the Android operating system. Pocket-lint reports that it has another device in the pipeline. It’s a bit confusing: The device was code-named variously as Vienna, Rome and Mercury. BlackBerry is about the only hardware vendor still offering physical keyboards. It gives the products a nice sense of being both up-to-date and old school. The Vienna/Rome/Mercury is no different. The story details what the device might look like and some of the prospective specs.
BlackBerry seems to be one company that turned just far enough to miss the iceberg. There are two priorities, however: Finding the new path and letting people know it. IT Business Edge’s Rob Enderle wrote that BlackBerry is alerting potential customers to the change -- again and again:
What BlackBerry is executing is an interesting strategy of generating post after post on both its successes in the new space and its new focus. This is a volume game. It reminds me of my first, and likely most interesting, advertising professor. He argued that, assuming you have the time, the best way to change a perception is through massive repetition.
BlackBerry was lucky in that its fading business led seamlessly to its new path. It is likely it will succeed in marketing the new version of the company, as well, since mobile management and security software is aimed at professionals who are paid to know what they should buy, not consumers shopping for a cool retro phone.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.