In the week or so leading up to the much anticipated, but somewhat under-hyped launch of BlackBerry 10, Research In Motion (RIM) has made some direct product announcements, a specific inference to partnerships, held developer marathons and gained stockholder confidence.
The much anticipated part of the launch stems, not so much from the typical excitement of the latest devices, though BlackBerry devotees are anxious to get their hands on them, but more from the long wait and untold results. RIM’s troubles have been well documented, and the Street is watching closely.
Marketing to the User
Social media, where, again, the BlackBerry devotees are, (more than 23 million likes on Facebook and nearly 1.8 million on Twitter) has served as an outlet for everything BlackBerry 10. And this is indeed part of RIM’s target for BlackBerry 10.
In a December interview with Mobile Enterprise, Vivek Bhardwaj head of software portfolio RIM said, "First, we have an obligation to ensure we are successful in launching a new platform. That success is not necessarily displacing market share from our competitors; it's making sure we sustain and maintain our existing subscriber base of 80 million customers." Naturally, the goal is to get all of these customers on BlackBerry 10.
He continued, "Second is reaching out to those customers who left us in the past for a variety of reasons, some of which we know are very evident. But, we have found that the audience who went to competitive platforms, has missed BlackBerry. They became frustrated when they left us and they want to come back..."
The “under-hyped” part of the launch stems from what appears to be a general lack of awareness on the part of the average consumer, on which RIM must count on to BYOD. RIM was at CES, so the intent is there, but, while there has been a lot of industry coverage, there has not been a big build up for which companies like Apple are known.
TV ads are said to be slated to air after the devices’ official unveiling on Jan. 30, and on Jan. 25, RIM confirmed that BlackBerry 10 would make its first ever superbowl appearance. Frank Boulben, Chief Marketing Officer, RIM said, “A Super Bowl commercial, is a great opportunity to show the redesigned, re-engineered and re-invented BlackBerry to 10 of millions of consumers on the largest advertising stage of the year.”
The big product announcement on Jan. 23 is highly relevant to enterprises supporting BYOD, but might be the first some have heard about it. There have not been many enterprise focused campaigns either, save for to the existing subscriber base as Bhardwaj mentioned. The Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution, BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (BES10), was released and is now available for download.
The solution is said to “reinvent RIM’s EMM by bringing together device management, industry leading security, and mobile applications management for BlackBerry smartphones, BlackBerry PlayBook tablets and new BlackBerry 10 smartphones in a consolidated solution. It also provides a single console for managing BlackBerry, Android and iOS devices.” The addition of rival devices is notable.
BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 is a scalable solution with the flexibility to manage a mobile deployment as needed. It supports both corporate-owned and personal-owned BYOD deployments and mixed environments of BlackBerry and other devices, providing MDM, MAM and secure access to corporate data.
It includes a web-based administration console to manage devices and users and also supports BlackBerry Balance technology, which separates and secures work applications and data from personal content on BlackBerry devices. BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 is built on the same security and connectivity model as the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
OS for Others?
Despite the aforementioned lack of consumer marketing, RIM has seen its share of headlines recently. An interview that RIM Chief Executive Thorsten Heins did with a German newspaper, has been widely covered because, according to various outlets, Heins said that "licensing its mobile OS to other handset makers is conceivable.”
He went on to comment that the company could, at some point, get out of the hardware business, but cautioned that any strategic decisions would have to wait; so much depends on the market response to BlackBerry 10.
In fact, according to the Jan. 28, Yankee Group Daily Insight, Chinese electronics company Lenovo may be interested in the acquisition. At the World Economic Forum Lenovo's CFO Wong Wai Ming, said the company is looking to expanding beyond its market, and pointed to the buying out RIM.
Yankee Group Senior VP of Research Wally Swain said, “This deal might make sense strategically in a PowerPoint presentation from an expensive consulting firm or an investment bank, but from a practical viewpoint, governments in the United States and probably Canada as well will block it.
A New BlackBerry World
Formerly BlackBerry App World, the BlackBerry storefront for apps, and now more, has been renamed to BlackBerry World. (The event, formerly known as BlackBerry World is now called BlackBerry Live.) The call out for the storefront is “Do more with BlackBerry World,” which reflects the content found therein — including apps, games, themes and music.
Yankee Group Principal Analyst Jason Armitage said of this change, “The wait for BlackBerry 10 has been a long one, but developers will find much to like with RIM’s new platform. Although RIM is not breaking new ground with these announcements, a single location for customers to access apps and entertainment will improve cross-marketing and increase app revenues. The real benefits lie in a platform that is easy to develop for and port existing apps to. Time-to-market for app projects will not hold back RIM’s challenge in the year ahead to confirm itself as the third mobile ecosystem.”
Apps were something that RIM knew it was lacking and is making development part of the BlackBerry 10 priority. In addition to its many developer focused BlackBerry Jams enterprise tour, the company has been holding “port-a-thons” incentivizing developers to submit their apps “be a part of all the BlackBerry 10 excitement.”
RIM made a significant commitment to developers for BlackBerry 10, by making it fast and efficient for organizations to develop and manage applications.
The company also launched BlackBerry Partners for Enterprise in 2012 to succeed the BlackBerry Alliance program and increase support to the enterprise software and services community.
Applications for the workplace developed by enterprises and enterprise developers will be available when BlackBerry 10 launches. These include Cisco, SAP, Box, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Truphone and BigHand.
“The debut of The Wall Street Journal’s app for BlackBerry 10 is the latest evolution in our ‘WSJ Everywhere’ digital strategy to meet new audiences through new digital platforms,” said Alisa Bowen, head of product for Dow Jones & Company. “The global reach of the BlackBerry platform allows us to continue expanding upon our own international growth, particularly in Asia, Europe and South America.”
Word on the Street
On Monday, Jan. 21, shares of RIM were at a 13-month high according to Reuters. The rise is, in part, credited to the statement by Heins about possible licensing, but also due to an upgrade the prior Monday by Byron Capital analyst Tom Astle according to Reuters. He raised his price target on RIM shares to C$18 from C$14.
For an historical perspective on performance, Reuters offered this, “RIM shares are down almost 90 percent from an all-time high of over C$150 in 2008, but the stock has rallied in the last four months as the launch of the BlackBerry 10 devices nears. Its shares have nearly tripled in value since dipping as low as C$6.10 in late September.”
January 30 will be revealing. Mobile Enterprise editors will be in New York for one of the live BlackBerry 10 launch events.