BB Not Out of the Woods Just Yet

Kudos to Thorsten Heins for adding focus at Blackberry. Kudos to his firm for courting app developers & urging current users to be patient until the next device. Blackberry now has a renewed life with BB10. No frivolous tablet launches. No recent crucial system downtime. No compromise to launch fast; instead, launching when ready. Turning over a new leaf.

Blackberry strengths = the Enterprise market, a truly global network, credibility in data privacy/ security, early-in share leadership in developing nations with fast population growth in Latin America, The Middle East and Africa.

Also: 2 smart recent moves;

  1. offering up the BB10 platform to other hardware makers- smart, as I’ll soon explain; and
  2. a firewall between work & personal files, contacts. Smart since most users want 1 device to handle both

 

The ‘RIM to Blackberry’ name change is sensible, but not big news.

Nonetheless, real obstacles remain for Blackberry:

  • it’s the #3 or #4 platform (depending on the continent) -way behind Android, iOs and, in some places, Windows;
  • it’s a small player with limited capital to promote its platform & hardware (Samsung has a market cap 25 X that of Blackberry; Apples is 50X as large)
  • slow new product pace: 3 devices in 4 years? Samsung launches more per season. The new BB10 catches up to other devices & modestly beats them in battery life & memory, but that will surely be short-lived leadership.

 

And yet

  • Android, according to some experts, isn’t easy platform for ‘regular’ app creators
  • Android hasn’t the info security/ privacy image BB has; and
  • Apple is making some less-than-sensitive moves: low Foxconn labour rates, low artist rights rates, and it could find itself a target in the European tax avoidance issue
  • Apple is spreading current efforts over many fronts- cloud network, a new headquarter building, new tablets, set-top boxes, mobile phone upgrades. And next, I expect, televisions. A loss of focus may mean a greater tendency to make errors.

 

Will the market keep supporting Blackberry? I doubt that average younger consumers will rush to buy Blackberries in Western nations. Blackberry must focus on Enterprise customers & world-traveling diplomats, business execs, lawyers, military / security personnel seeking a reliable, secure, confidential global communication device. ‘End consumers’ like me may peruse Blackberry’s new Z10. As customers, some Boomers & Gen Xers have some role-based visibility, however, we’re not necessarily tomorrow’s customers or future high-earners.

What could bring those promising Gen Y types across to Blackberry? Features like better data security, effective firewalls, greater uptime.

Sure, in Western Europe & North America, BB is on the outside looking in- a distant #3 or #4 player. But it made a smart move in lending out its platform; that will increase the market’s familiarity with the platform, app developer interest, BB’s brand power & the platform’s ‘critical mass’ & ongoing viability.

Also: Recently the news has repeatedly exposed various government departments & healthcare personnel for losing client’s private data. Info security is a hot topic- and Blackberry just happens to be ahead of the game in privacy, data security & firewalls, issues which I’ve predicted will be:

very relevant in coming years

Other possible outcomes for Blackberry? For years, I’ve said Microsoft & Blackberry have big synergies & customer overlap & they should merge mobile/ tablet/ Op Systems efforts. Hasn’t happened yet. Let’s wait & see.

Steven Litt