In an article I wrote back in July of 2016 I titled it: “IS JOHN CHEN ABOUT TO SHOOT BLACKBERRY IN THE FOOT; AGAIN.” as he announced Blackberry was no longer going to put anymore work into BB10 but rather concentrate on becoming a full fledged Android citizen. I wondered out loud if this might not have been a mistake from more than one angle:
- As an Android device, Blackberry has become just another Android device with a couple of things that could differentiate it like the security aspects built into the phone.
- The second thing that I thought was critically important was BB10 differentiated the Blackberry significantly from the competition. If BB10 was a dog of an operating system, I might have thought very differently. However, BB10 is just the opposite. It is a highly robust OS capable of doing a substantive number of things such as run Android at native speeds with next to no compatibility problems. Considering this, why would a BB10 phone need a dedicated Android OS.
- BB10 brought to the table for Blackberry a significant market differentiator. Regardless of whether there were apps for BB10 per se, there were plenty of Android apps. However, when you take more than a cursory look at BB10 you have a highly robust OS capable of doing a lot very logically and more importantly easily. Some things about BB10 are just so logical. This can’t be said of Android and to a lesser degree IOS.
- Competition is a good thing. Windows seemed to be going no where fast at least in the mobile space. BB10 could have allowed Blackberry to really differentiate its phones based not only on the hardware but so too the software which is very advanced. It is considered a very viable mobile OS that can do a lot and bring a lot to the table. This is important.
Slow to Market yet…
Blackberry was their own worst enemy. They were very slow to market with BB10. It was generally considered they were about two years too late to the party. BB10 was released to significant fanfare but there was still a fair amount of work to do on the OS to truly make it what it could be.
Within a short period of time I saw BB10 go from an OS with a lot of rough edges to an OS that was basically solid. With every iteration, problems were being worked through that made it more and more valuable and easy if not fun to work with.
BB10 was well armoured against security problems. This is one area that Blackberry does not have to accept much criticism but their work on this around bb10 got them into a bit of a sticky spot. However, this only required some work and time to get the system unstuck. Once this happened though it proved its mettle. Plus, now with security taking such a front and centre position it is hard to question Blackberry and the OS on this front. The thought that has gone into its security protocols are elegant and extremley workable.
John Chen is having Trouble answering the Question what does Blackberry Do
In the following article “So if BlackBerry Mobile builds phones, what does BlackBerry sell now?” and John Chen has a hard time explaining this one. On the Blackberry website, there are a slew of products listed all of which leads to a great deal of confusion. The handset, if nothing else, presented to the world an easy to understand view of a piece of the puzzle of what Blackberry sells now.
The article I wrote back in 2016 might have had something to it. People when they buy something want to feel assured that who they buy from knows what they’re doing, will be here tomorrow and are to be trusted. When Double speak gets extreme so that even Chen has trouble explaining what they do, a customer is rightly going to feel nervous.
Everyone just keeps saying hang on with Blackberry but now you are wondering what you’re hanging on to. The line, as any line, can get over used to the point it becomes meaningless. If Blackberry was going to hang on and expect their customers to hang on, they should have had a greater belief in themselves and their handsets. A lot of people not only got burned on that front but as a stock investment it has been a wild ride. Just like other aspects of Blackberry, there really is no solid proposition.
It might be there but it certainly is hard to discern. The Stock Market is dong well but what if it were to take a turn for the worse. How would people weather this and would they. Blackberry needs capital investment. Yet, for the investor this would be more nerve wracking than at any point in the past until the story plays out and people understand it so that it makes perfect personal sense.
The Blackberry Story Never Ceases to Amaze
Many people have said numerous times its over for Blackberry. This hasn’t proven true as of yet. It might never prove true. Yet, for a company wanting to define itself, they’re having one very difficult time. This in and of itself could prove to be a self fulling prophecy one that could possibly be averted.
Blackberry’s role of bringing security to the masses through software solutions might be an extremely viable proposition. They are winning bids around this very area. Yet, there is still that confusion with respect to exactly what is this company now.
Many a customer of the past loved their Blackberry. The company could have easily branched off into these other areas. However, with the handset there is a pivotal image of the company. To a large degree, this is the way the company was and likely was going to continue to press along this road. Yet, I believe Chen got impatient with the progress of the handset. They started from quite far behind so it was going to be no easy fix. Yet fix was possible. It was being proven and some were getting excited by what BB10 could really do.
Once the decision was made to abandon this part of the business though, a well formulated business proposition started to become very difficult to articulate. The fall of the handset has left the company with something very difficult to grasp.
A 20% share of the market is better than a 10% share and on it goes but a zero percent share of a product that at one time defined Blackberry seems as if the self-fullfilling prophecy played out perfectly. I cannot help but think that Blackberry could have diversified their portfolio with a well understood handset portfolio. They threw into this handset mix a grab bag of very odd phones; phones from the past that at one time were popular but that people had moved on from (virtual vs physical keyboard); phones that looked weird and those that were underpowered and overpriced.
I still feel though that the biggest mistake was the divesting or at least saying that you’re going to divest yourself of a very advanced OS; BB10 which would have remained as a core differentiator in the product portfolio. When this happened, I certainly had no interest in any further Blackberry‘s.
Is it too late to return to a handset business built on BB10; one in which the phones look normal but are encapsulated with this very powerful OS. Is it too late to invest in just a small, core set of what I would like to call normal phones utilizing the best of technologies producing a compelling argument as to why Blackberry. Probably not as Blackberry is renowned for change but this time it would have to be so well thought out with an absolute avoidance of the bizarre. A solid, good hearted endeavour might go a long way for both a software business that Blackberry wants to get off the ground and putting back into place a sorely needed strategy that can be easily articulated that meets the needs of the Blackberry diehards that made Blackberry the company it once was.