Is John Chen about to shoot Blackberry in the Foot; Again

Blackberry logo

Blackberry certainly has had its problems. Having fallen from one of the first and highest flying smartphone makers to its audible limp has been difficult to watch especially for a Canadian. The one thing though, that they seemed to have done right in recent years was BB10, the follow on OS to replace their classic environment. It is commonly held that if Blackberry had gotten this OS to market two years in advance of when they did, they probably wouldn’t find themselves in the predicament they currently do.

BB10 was Welcomed as a Mature and Fresh Release to an OS that Crumbled under the Pressure of the Touch Screen

When Blackberry released BB10 it couldn’t have been any too soon. Their first release of an all touch screen phone, the Storm, was based on the Classic OS and it was considered generally a failure. Blackberry was so taken off guard by Apple, their hardware and OS, they scrambled to get a competitive product out the door. However, they didn’t do themselves any favors as this was no competitive product. Illogical in operation and buggy by most accounts, the storm went down like a jet plane hit by lightening in a storm.

BB10 however, was viewed very differently and with great potential. It was an advanced OS capable of real multi-tasking something even the iPhone of the day had trouble with. There were many things to like about BB10 but probably one of its strongest user components was the hub, a place in which all communication traffic had to pass.

The Hub


Along with BlackBerry’s impressive security, the hub was considered a logical, simple but incredibly useful tool in the realm of communications. Instead of having to go from one spot to another to carry out communications functions, everything was centralized in the hub. This not only increased efficiency but was simply very logical.

The OS

As I have eluded to here, the BB10 was an advanced OS coming to the party just or maybe way too late. The iPhone and Android had captured developer’s thinking. Windows mobile, which had been around for a long time, was loosing in the mobile wars just as fast as BlackBerry but for some reason everyone seemed to be concentrating on BlackBerry’s problems.

The OS could multitask and handle many advanced tasks only found in higher end systems. How could BlackBerry, at this stage, have helped itself more than it did.

BB10 10.2.1 Can run Android Apps as if they were Native

One of BlackBerry’s probably earliest and greatest mistakes, once they got on board with the new OS, was not to promote one of it’s most significant strengths. BlackBerry got swamped in the refrain you have no applications. Prior to 10.2.1 this might have been true but it certainly wasn’t after. BB10 could run almost all of Android’s applications and they were offered through the Amazon store. Suddenly, the refrain about a lack of applications became history.

However, who heard about this. Very few. I’ll never understand this. One of its greatest weaknesses, the lack of apps, was met by a resounding flurry of apps all running under BB10. One has to ask the question why did BlackBerry not highlight this to the hilt. In fact, under 10.3.1 even the little nuisances that were seen were all be eliminated.

At this point, what did BlackBerry do. They announced they were going to develop an Android phone. BB10 could run all Android apps but BlackBerry announced they were going to build an Android phone. They decided they were going to play in a market they had no control over, was stumping long term Android players and yet BlackBerry decided they should play in this market of many Android players.

John Chen is so far no friend of BlackBerry or Could it be More

BlackBerry controls BB10 and this leads to a lot of steering capability. Is John Chen no friend of BlackBerry or could it be simpler than that. I’m going with the simpler thought.

Very few non-technical people have been able to make a success out of a technology company. They simply don’t have what it takes to understand the nuisances of technology and how that plays out. BlackBerry should have been making hey out of the aspect that BB10 could run Android apps. The whole app problem would have disappeared. Further, BlackBerry would remain firmly in control of its future.

Has John Chen just shot Blackberry in the Foot

Rather, they do what they already can do by building a pure Android phone at quite the steep price. BB10 is one of the most logical of the OS’s for the mobile platform and with applications through Android, it would not have had that to be a detraction or distraction. These applications were offered at the Amazon app store but the reality is, when the full functionality of Android was enabled on BB10 you could get the apps from the Google Play store.

So far, it seems that John Chen is going to drop BB10 altogether and through one last hurrah, they are rumored to be delivering two more Android phones. I would say this is foolhardy at best. To be in control of your OS takes a lot of work and it provides valuable competitive edge. Let’s not forget, that the problem all originated in that BlackBerry underestimated Apple and was caught severely off guard. That they were late to the table didn’t necessarily mean they were finished. They probably are finished if they go down this Android only route. Let’s’ remember, BB10 can run Android itself. BlackBerry has a lot to loose if they make another misstep.

Microsoft is a Good Case in Point

Microsoft is a big and powerful company. They too got themselves in not such a great position with their Windows mobile strategy. Steve Balmer, who was in charge at the time, was not a technologist but a sales guy. Not so for Steve Jobs and not so for the current fellow who heads up Microsoft. Microsoft is doing quite well under the current management headed by Sataya Nadella. Microsoft had a long run of poor moves and Nadella was fairly well given free reign to correct those.

Microsoft is turning a corner. There is one other major company not headed by a technologist and it seems more precarious than its seemed since the 1990’s. That fellow is Tim Cook.

Although he appears to be a nice man with some very valuable ideals, he is not a leader of an Apple. You simply have to look at what we hold near and dear. Of that, how often have products in the categories of stuff we like using has been churned so many times one might think of Apple as being in the business of making butter.

John Chen is not the Person for the Job Either

BlackBerry is now held together by a thread. I would suggest that the numerous missteps and product groups is coming from a management without insight or direction. The world simply doesn’t work like this. It is up to a savvy board to know when tough decisions need to be made. Firing a floor worker in Idaho simply isn’t the answer.

When is Enough, Enough!

I quit
BlackBerry has basically accomplished nothing under Chen’s tutelage. Again, a businessman, he’s out of his water on the technology front. The company seems eerily adrift. To drop BB10 for Android when BB10 can run Android is folly. It’s as close to a crap shoot as you can get.

One has to wonder who is advising Chen if anyone for no one may have the stomach for this anymore. It’s sad as there is no more guarantee of success using Android and probably much less. There is now a strong ecosystem in place selling Android solutions. What does BlackBerry have to offer when renowned companies are having quite the time of it.

Ironically, Maybe there’s a Lesson to be Learned from Microsoft

Under Ballmer, Microsoft had its series of mistakes, missteps and blunders. They seem to have a winning recipe as the company matures from the sole fortress of a PC bastion, to that of a company providing revolutionary infrastructure to power the coming information systems economy. They are doing an admirable job as they have a fellow in charge who knows what I.T. means. He’s not throwing the baby out with the bathwater but opening up the gates so that it is no longer fortress Microsoft.

When I read this I thought we’re heading for a fairly narrow world, at least at the personal level of information systems. Or are we. Revolutions are just that; messy. To steer through new and choppy waters requires people who know what their talking about not about their own personal agendas.

I, for one, am more than interested to see how this plays out. I suspect it’s going to be very messy until it shakes out one way or another. It would seem clear that the era of closed systems is falling behind us. That doesn’t mean individual platforms can’t be developed as long as there is interconnectivity and openness. This is no longer a world in which we all use IOS or Android but rather a mixture that nicely interconnects.

Cross platform or Open Systems aren’t coming. They’re here. Yet, you can still have vendor specific platforms hosting the open systems solutions or the interconnectivity. BB10 could have played a fine role in such a systems environment hosting the openness being demanded. To blame your failure on BB10 doesn’t make sense. However, adherence to the old to try to control the landscape not taking into account this move to open systems would be the real downfall. To have a scapegoat in your pocket may seem temporarily prudent but its not; not anymore that is!

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