All These Years Later, BlackBerry’s Fate Still Likely Depends on the Enterprise

    One unremarked upon phenomenon of the modern age of telecommunications is that it is event-based. A big part of success is putting on a good launch show. Apple, as with other things, leads the charge. The unveiling of a new iAnything is covered like space shots were a few decades ago. Microsoft and now the company formerly known as Research In Motion also are good at event staging.

    Yesterday, of course, it was BlackBerry’s (nee: Research In Motion) turn to dominate the news. The company missed the opportunity to have the artist formerly and currently known as Prince – who is making a comeback — as the MC.

    The reviews, of course, are rolling in. They largely are good. Now that the total fail possibility is off the table, the burning questions become:

    • Considering how powerful Apple iOS and Android are, does it really matter how good BlackBerry 10 is?
    • In the era of BYOD, how important is BlackBerry’s enterprise legacy in carving out a niche?
    • Finally, what does success for any of the third players look like?

    Once the adrenalin wears off, BlackBerry returns to a dynamic in which it is fighting several competitors to be the third player in the mobile operating system (OS) game. The two big candidates for the third spot are Windows Phone and BlackBerry. The former has a head start, generally good reviews, Redmond’s money and infrastructure, and close integration to everything Windows. BlackBerry has what still is a strong name and residual strength in the enterprise.

    It would be wise not to underestimate the fact that people like an underdog. Underlying the entire debate is the fact that if Windows Phone fails, Microsoft will be unhappy — but fine. If BlackBerry 10 flops, that’s pretty much it for the company. People know that and perhaps may unconsciously lean a bit toward the Canadians.

    It is important to not overlook the small entrants, which include Tizen, Mozilla’s Firefox OS and Canonical’s Ubuntu Mobile. Each undoubtedly has its strengths and weaknesses. It is a crowded field, especially considering that there never will be too much market share left over once the killer As — Android and Apple – take their slices.

    All that being said, the reaction to yesterday’s coming-out party is an important first step for BlackBerry. Here are some samples of the reactions:

    In addition to the name change and the new OS itself, BlackBerry unveiled two new handsets (USA Today offers specs on both and, for comparison’s sake, specs for the iPhone 5 and the Android-driven Samsung Galaxy S III). eWeek suggests that the Q10 is great for folks who favor traditional BlackBerry operations and that the Z10 is the phone of the future.

    The piece provides 10 reasons to put the Z10 ahead of the Q10. The conclusion is in the intro:

    Making sense was arguably the theme of the BlackBerry 10 event. Finally, BlackBerry has embraced the future and realized that to be successful, it would need to deliver software and hardware that could compete with the top products available today. It was the logical next step in BlackBerry’s decisions, and it’s something that could very well save the company.

    ZDNet’s Kevin Kwang indicates that the moves may be enough to staunch the flow of customers, but not enough to get folks to switch from iOS or Android. The comments in his piece are generally positive, but suggest that the changes play around the edges and are not fundamental enough to radically shift the landscape.

    David Pogue, the influential tech writer for The New York Times, is very impressed. Not only are there new and innovative features, he wrote, but the OS has arrived fully formed, with a stocked app store and dual identities for consumer and business use. Both identities appear, with the business identity only functioning if a password is entered.

    Indeed, the corporate-readiness and play to IT departments may be keys. The enterprise represents a great opportunity for BlackBerry. Perhaps the company can make a play out of both returning to its roots and helping organizations deal BYOD. ABI Research suggests that BlackBerry will have to use that as the starting point and perhaps seriously tackle the consumer market down the road:

    In the near term, BlackBerry will rely on an enterprise smartphone market that is still growing even in developed markets such as North America and Western Europe. Worldwide smartphone penetration at EOY 2012 among mobile business customers representing corporate liable and prosumer markets stands at 52%; among all employees it stands at 29%. BlackBerry smartphones currently hold a number 3 position in the enterprise market behind Android and Apple at number 1 and 2 respectively.

    The next few months will be interesting. BlackBerry 10 has carrier support and a real opportunity to convince companies that it has the right mix of business and consumer features. At the same time, it is a crowded field of aggressive competitors fighting over the relatively small slice of the pie that is not firmly in the Apple or Android camps.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

    Latest Articles