With a week since the launch of BlackBerry 10, the stocks are up about as much as they initially fell. The reviews of the launch and the first device are in — and, not surprisingly — they are mixed. Last week, we told you five things you did not know about BB10, now we’ll get to what used to be the foundation of BlackBerry – the enterprise.
After the live feed dropped on the Jan. 30 event in New York, CEO Thorsten Heins and CMO Frank Boulben opened the floor to questions. The day’s presentation and demo covered specs, features and all the "wow" factors, but there was still a question of strategy — how did BlackBerry plan to take back the enterprise — especially in the United States?
Winning the Market
More specifically they were asked, how are you going to be "pushing this in the U.S. where the brand has somewhat eroded?"
“We started already on the enterprise side," Boulben responded. "We had a technical preview program in which 130 enterprises in the U.S. have participated — this was conducted jointly with the carriers. We are now entering the BlackBerry 10 ready program with 1,600 enterprises in the U.S.”
He went on to say that on the consumer side, the carriers were announcing pre-registration that day. To date, however, the U.S. carrier sites are only offering email signup to receive updates. (In the U.K where the Z10 was available immediately, there have been reports of sell outs, and preorders in the Canada are being called "records" by one carrier.)
What it Doesn’t Do?
According to Boulben the official consumer marketing kick off was set to be Super Bowl Sunday, where the company had intended to say: “BlackBerry is back.” By most standards, unfortunately, the touted commercial (also mentioned several times in the Q&A by new global creative director Alicia Keys), was a miss.
"Really, BlackBerry? ‘In 30 seconds, it's quicker to show you what it can't do.' Really!? You're in a battle to the death against feature-laden phones from Apple and Samsung. You're releasing a phone that got some half-decent tech-world buzz last week. And you're going to drop millions on a 30-second spot that doesn't offer one gee-whiz feature that would separate you from the smartphone pack?"
Another question was about how BlackBerry will make a "dent" in the OS market in the U.S. or if will it "accept" a third place position? Boulben clarified first by pointing out that the OS market is the same globally, but spoke with confidence about the future.
"We have the full support from our ecosystem — on the carrier side, the four main carriers have announced BlackBerry 10, and, at launch, there will be more than 100,000 apps available. We are going to position the product by showcasing all the fantastic features — in any piece of marketing you see from us you will see some of those features showcased in a real life circumstance — that is how we will win the hearts and minds of U.S. consumers." Curiously, this is contrary to the Super Bowl commercial’s
A key takeaway from the launch speaks directly to the enterprise, but business needs to pay attention to the wording. Heins and others repeatedly refer to "true mobile computing," and he emphasized BlackBerry 10 as the next step to this mobile utopia of sorts.
This idea came up when he was asked the status of BlackBerry 10 for Playbook. The plan, according to Heins, "is to upgrade all existing Playbooks to have one unique platform across the tablet and the smartphones and all mobile computing elements that we will be developing."
But it’s not that simple for him. He said, "The way I look at the tablet business right now, providing profits to shareholders on hardware only is, in that segment, rather difficult…what we will be doing around the mobile computing space is we will continue in the tablet space, but we are looking for specific services, value-added services on top of the tablet to think about mobile computing on a tablet."
He noted that they want to provide a "value proposition" that isn’t just about hardware, but also has a software application and services component — "That’s what we are working on."
Enterprise On Deck
The conversation continued with Derek Peper, vice president, enterprise strategic partnerships, and Peter Devenyi, senior vice president of enterprise software.
Devenyi opened the session by saying, "I am very excited about what we have done and how we have integrated BlackBerry 10 into the overall ecosystem that our corporate customers small and large will be using. We are dedicated to supporting all their needs and have done a lot of work on building the best possible experience for not only BlackBerry 10, but also for supporting an overall multi-platform solution for all of their mobile management needs."
The opening question was an echo of what was asked of Heins — can BlackBerry win back customers that have moved to alternative platforms?
Peper said, "We are seeing it already; we have had a number of previews out, primarily in the U.S., and customers are calling us now." And, according to him, they are coming back for the management and the usability of the device, and also because of the ability to manage the cross-platform devices.
Devenyi expanded on this, explaining that BlackBerry continues to be a "very dominant force" with 80-90% of the Fortune 500 continuing to rely on BES, and emphasized the "plethora of opportunities" that will now come from addressing the needs of BYOD, which was not at open to them in the past.
This is a key differentiator in the "new" BlackBerry approaching a new enterprise where device choice is truly personal. Devenyi said, "We are realistic and know that, given BYOD, not every device in an environment is going to be a BlackBerry, but we believe we have, far and away, the best solution for balancing work/personal."
This plays into what he calls the enterprise vision of BlackBerry. He categorizes it in two ways. First, Devenyi defines the shorter-term vision, "We are absolutely focused and dedicated to providing the best and most secure solution possible to support the needs of our enterprise customers from an EMM perspective. This means from MDM and MAM perspectives to allow them to control that environment effortlessly across all devices."
The longer term perspective goes back to Heins’ vision of "mobile computing." Devenyi said, "We want to expand the set of endpoints that we support and go well beyond what we know as smartphones and tablets today, using the BES platform to manage a wide variety of mobile devices, whatever they may be."
And Peper pointed out that strategic legacy partners such as Cisco, IBM and SAP are helping BlackBerry by creating the experience around their mobile platforms. He commented, "Thorsten said 'how do we move from mobile communications to mobile computing' — that’s the vision these partners have as well, and we are creating this vision together."
BlackBerry World for Work
From vision to practice, the next question was more tactical: What is BlackBerry World for Work? Peper said, "If you want to be behind the firewall and have an area for the apps that run your business — whether created or approved by you — that’s BlackBerry World for Work. Once you go into that secure work perimeter, everything can be managed by the admin."
This is accessed and activated by enrolling in BES10, which Devenyi says is as easy as creating a Gmail account. However, the BlackBerry infrastructure is "smart enough" to know it’s an enterprise account. "As soon as that happens, Balance and BlackBerry World for Work is created — all the apps that the admin has loaded into the BES10 for view are visible; required apps show up on device; any apps in public app world that have been whitelisted show up for work, but are downloaded to the work side of device — it’s a seamless user experience."
So while it appears BlackBerry is ready for BYOD with a full solution, but as Boulben acknowledged, to truly enable success BlackBerry needs to reach the consumer. And so the conversations of the day came full circle starting and ending with this emphasis.
In response to a question about reaching the "urban" market, where the asker said BlackBerry used to be perceived as the must-have "cool" device, Peper said, yes – the cool factor is here. He maintained that many who have had an iPhone experience are coming back to BlackBerry.
Piggy backing on this question, and hearkening back to the question at hand — how will BlackBerry take back the enterprise?
Mobile Enterprise Magazine asked: Are you then relying on consumer to carry the BYOD trend forward with BlackBerry? Devenyi made it clear that they do not see enterprise penetration as an issue. He said, "We have done very, very well in, and expect to continue to do well in the corporate-owned device market."
He believes there is a significant percentage of companies who have a corporate-owned, personally-enabled (COPE) model and "BlackBerry Balance fits to a T."
He also re-emphasized BlackBerry's BYOD capabilities. "The market has exploded with BYOD and that’s what BlackBerry Balance is all about. It's the perfect solution for the enterprise because it is compromise free [for the enterprise and employees.]"
While on the right path with a clear vision, some of the future is still vague, even to the company.
"We are working on a roadmap —it's not just do we have one or two models — we need to make sure we have the right segmentation," Heins said, when asked about a launch schedule. "For example, there is high-tier and mid-tier, and the teams are working on a product portfolio that addresses the markets properly. But this is not just a one time, not just a blip — you can already expect us to be working on the next premium touch and QWERTY device. What is the right sequence? That is different with consumer versus the enterprise, as we all know. Innovation is happening quickly and in smartphones we are taking this to the mobile computing space."