BlackBerry 10 turned one last week, and if Executive Chair and CEO John Chen blew out any candles on a Q10 shaped cake, he likely wished for the enterprise.
While Chen is surely still learning the ins and outs of the company, he is probably familiar enough with the ups and downs already. Stocks went up by about 20% this year (+60% from the very worst), but went down on the whim of a misinterpreted statement from the Department of Defense (DOD) that it was buying 80,000 devices. (In actuality, the DOD is supporting that many BlackBerries.)
On the heels of this, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners released an estimate of the mobile phone market in which BlackBerry has 0% share. Looking up, however, that market stat could actually stand as evidence that Chen’s move to disencumber the company from its manufacturing responsibilities was the right one—a move, nonetheless, for which he does not take full credit. “I finished a job that was laid out by the board and prior management: a discussion with Foxconn,” he said on the December 2013 Q3 earnings call.
At that time he also said, “We are in enterprise mobility, a highly secure strategic environment. That is what we would like to serve.” Newly appointed John Sims, President of Global Enterprise Solutions, had a little to say about this too in his January 20 blog, “BlackBerry continues to evolve, but as we do so we will keep the needs of our core customer segments at the center of all plans. Enterprise security, productivity and communications will remain fundamental to all that we do.”
Then and Now
In an interview with Mobile Enterprise, Jeff Holleran, Senior Director, Enterprise Product Management at BlackBerry, echoed this sentiment and offered his perspective. Looking back on the anticipation of the launch of BB10, the company (then still RIM) was eager to share that it was “bringing a new user experience, supported by the functionality and features of the hub and keyboard combined with BlackBerry Balance for total separation.”
While much of that value proposition has not gone away—in fact, BlackBerry has just enhanced BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.2.1, “that lets you do more, more easily, and helps you be more productive and stay better connected”—many other things have obviously changed. What’s going to be different going forward?
“Deep and meaningful executive changes have been made and will continue, and these changes will emphasize our commitment to pivoting the company to its strengths, or where it can be strong in the future. BlackBerry remains a valued and trusted partner to global government agencies and enterprises,” explained Holleran.
He said that the company has earned the trust of more than 80,000 enterprise and government customers worldwide, and claims four times more than the “pure play” MDM vendors combined. There are more than 665 carriers and distribution partners offering BlackBerry products and services in more than 175 countries; 31,000 BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 commercial and test servers installed since launch.
As first laid out by Chen, Holleran reiterated the company’s new plan, “We are now focused on moving the company forward and BlackBerry will transition to an operating unit structure: Enterprise Services, Messaging, QNX Embedded business and the devices business. This new organizational structure will drive greater focus on services and software, while establishing a more efficient business model for the devices business. This approach, over time, will also allow for better transparency and allow for the teams of those units to innovate as well as be more accountable for performance and direction.”
How deep is BlackBerry’s love for its business customers? Holleran pointed out a recent investment. “We have also committed to opening an innovation center in the Washington, D.C. area to accelerate partnerships with government and enterprise customers and encourage ongoing dialogue aimed at making better products and policy.”
Holleran said that BlackBerry is primed to meet the demands of multi-platform environments and security, “because an end-to-end mobile platform has always been part of our DNA.” He called the company “the most capable vendor to lead in the EMM market evolution.” This is certainly new verbiage for BlackBerry who historically did not group itself with the rest of the market.
Indeed, the immediate mandate for BlackBerry is returning the company back to its core strength of enterprise and security with a heavier focus on regulated industry customers in government, financial services, medical and telecom, according to Holleran.
A larger priority for the previous regime, albeit one that failed abysmally, BlackBerry does remain committed to serving the consumer market. “As we pivot the company towards enterprise, we realize we have many types of users that embrace BlackBerry smartphones,” said Holleran.
Looking ahead, to a future in which mobile computing is the driving force behind a more intelligent and responsive world, Holleran said that BlackBerry is well positioned in this area. “We know that technology is moving towards M2M and the Internet of Things. QNX technology is our 'secret sauce.'”
The Internet of Things has become a buzz word for many these days, but Holleran assures that it’s a priority for BlackBerry. He noted, “QNX Software Systems’ embedded business is so important, that John Chen broke QNX functions as its own operating unit. QNX technology is deployed by over 40 OEMS in 250 vehicle platforms in tens of millions of vehicles throughout North America, Europe and Asia. BlackBerry will have a play in M2M. What we are figuring out now is what that looks like – whether we will be an enabler, a central spoke in that wheel or a partner."