BlackBerry Overhaul Delivers in 2013: Collapse or Comeback?
By Mike Anderson
RIM, now BlackBerry, has taken a beating that has done nothing but worsen since the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2007. It’s response in 2012 has resulted in nothing short of a massive overhaul, from management to cost structure to product strategy.
BlackBerry has created of a new strategy with a new mobile OS, new touch devices to complement the trademark keyboard, and updates to its secure mobile management product enabling support for iOS and Android devices. The new look BlackBerry has a strong and compelling strategy to put the company in a powerful position to lead mobility for the enterprise – if only it were 2010.
RIM Becomes BlackBerry
At the top of the business it’s a challenge to find something that has not changed. The old Research In Motion is gone, with the iconic BlackBerry becoming the new corporate identity. A new CEO has replaced the often-challenging co-CEO founders. Three members of the board of directors are new. And top management has been overhauled, with a new CMO, COO and Chief Legal officer joining the new CEO. The old RIM is gone; can the new blood in the new BlackBerry right the business that has been off the rails for more than three years?
BlackBerry Devices Take New Shape
The BlackBerry 10 OS and new touch and keyboard devices are the promised response to the new mobile trajectory set by Apple’s iPhone. After multiple delays, the initial Z10 touch devices have begun shipping. One million BB10 devices shipped in BlackBerry’s fiscal 2013 Q4, and the company managed to turn a profit, surprising everyone. Behind that profit is tightened operations and greater efficiency that resulted from Thorsten Heins’ success in taking $1 billion out of annual operating costs.
BlackBerry 10 Sales: Death Knell, or Prelude?
Initial sales of the new BB10 devices have been viewed by many as lackluster, supposedly sounding the death knell for BlackBerry. There were no long lines at the AT&T store for the Z10 like have been witnessed for new iPhones at the Apple store. But it’s too early to count BlackBerry out.
The Z10 is BlackBerry’s attempt to get back into the consumer game that has been lost to iOS and Android devices. BlackBerry is also a strong enterprise play. The BlackBerry fan boys are not groupies who have to race out to get the best new device as soon as they hit the shelves. Many are business people first, and it is the addiction to their CrackBerry that rules their use and interest in new models. While some will move to the Z10 as others have to Android devices and the iPhone, it is likely that the keyboard experience of the Q10 expected in April will draw out those business users.
BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10: Pivotal for a BlackBerry Future
One of the strongest assets for BlackBerry to leverage is the installed base of BES servers in enterprises. BES is the heart of the BlackBerry secure messaging and connectivity service. BlackBerry left the door open for a mobility management market to emerge in order to bring MDM capabilities to iOS and Android devices, but a very large BES installed base remains. 4,600 companies in North America alone have taken on the BlackBerry Ready program, and a prerequisite is having BES installed.
The upcoming quarter will be the most pivotal for BlackBerry. Enterprises will have a look at both the Q10 and Z10 devices, and will begin finalizing the decision to stick with BlackBerry or accelerate the consumer-driven movement to iOS and Android. Support for iOS and Android is included in BES 10, and an upcoming service pack will add BlackBerry Secure Work Space, dual-persona BYOD support for those devices similar to BlackBerry Balance. Being able to leverage existing BES servers, and the expertise in managing devices through them, will be an attractive value proposition. If BlackBerry is able to convince businesses to upgrade their existing BES mobility management to enable support for iOS and Android along with BB10, it may prove to be the inflection BlackBerry needs in the enterprise. If not, erosion in the enterprise will worsen.