Blackberry came from the enterprise and its future will depend on the enterprise.
That future may be as a stand-alone company, as part of a larger supplier -such as Lenovo, or on the IT industry scrapheap.
Sure there has been a laugh at the expense of Blackberry’s European MD on yesterday’s Nicky Campbell show for not being able to articulate the new Blackberry 10’s USP or what the company had learnt from Apple, but the answer is simple.
The Blackberry Z10 looks and feels like an iPhone 5. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Blackberry’s USP is inside the casing. The new phone is a genuinely multi-tasking device. It offers genuine enterprise class security and has management tools that can handle not just Blackberry devices but almost any scenario that a permissive BYOD environment can create.
In fact, in most workplaces the new handsets - if handed out in large enough numbers by the IT department - are good enough to stop all but the most obsessive Apple or Samsung fan linking their personal phone to the corporate network. The split between the work and the personal sides of the phone, what the company calls the Blackberry Balance is virtually total. Of course this is not a new concept. Nokia delivered a version of this on its smartphones five years ago - but you won’t find it on Apple or Android products.
All this does though, is get Blackberry to base camp. There is pent up demand for the new Blackberry devices and the new Blackberry Enterprise Server, but Blackberry must prove three points
- The security of the Blackberry global network. The disastrous failure of the global Blackberry network last year stunned corporate Blackberry users. It highlighted the dangers inherent in Blackberry’s efforts to chase the pure consumer market, with cost and quality pressures that resulted. It also highlighted the problems caused by the mingling, even if only in part, of consumer and core enterprise traffic through the Blackberry network.
- That the operating system will be managed as an enterprise class product. Too many CIOs with serious mobile deployments are tearing their hair out because of seemingly unplanned and definitely unannounced changes to other mobile operating systems that crash their applications. Blackberry’s USP must be solid engineering and predictability of patches and upgrades.
- The viability of the company. Enterprises will not sign two or three-year contract renewals with Blackberry if they believe the company will lack the wherewithal to maintain investment and innovation. The new Blackberry 10 platform is excellent, but it is only a platform. The issue now is what it supports.
So Blackberry needs to incentivise enterprise IT purchasers to not simply upgrade their BES, but also to roll out very large numbers of handsets. It needs to ensure the security and reliability of its network. It needs to incentivise the developers and partners, and to pay for it all, it needs success in the consumer market place.
That’s hard task. Forrester analyst Ted Schadler seems to have it right - decidedly enthusiastic about the handsets and the new iteration of BES, and decidedly cautious about what the IT teams should do. His tips?
- Upgrade you BES. It can handle iOS and Android anyway
- Add the new handsets to your corporate approved list
- Experiment with the personal + work features
- Wait for the demand
That's sound advice. Blackberry still has it all to do.