It was a busy week for Research In Motion (RIM), which kicked off BlackBerry Jam Americas 2012, held Sept. 25-27 and also announced, on Sept. 27, financial results that beat expectations, caused a rise in stock, but were met with doubt by many on the street.
More than 1,500 developers and community leaders received an in-depth look at the BlackBerry 10 user experience, and heard the company’s vision for the future, what’s on the horizon for the developer community and announcements with new partners. Developers were also offered hands-on time with BlackBerry 10 Alpha devices. Top enterprise customers are currently beta testing the platform.
Thorsten Heins, President and CEO, opened the event by saying, “The mobile landscape is preparing for another shift, and with BlackBerry 10, we are at the start of a new era of mobile computing... that is why we built a new platform on new architecture from the ground up, not just a new device.”
Nonetheless, he did point out the power of the device, as well, calling BB10 processing “closer to a laptop.” And for a true mobile UX, action can be done at the touch of one finger. He also happened to mention that the device is sleeker, lighter and has the “same connector,” a subtle dig at Apple’s new iPhone 5.
There was much talk of the enterprise and emphasis on the advantages of BlackBerry. Heins noted collaboration, sharing, productivity and security as the “must haves” of today's mobile platforms.
For business, BB10 is being built to increase productivity, improve efficiency and enable people to make the best and most informed decisions. “It helps you to take action,” he said. When talking about an integrated mobile computing experience, he notes, “It should be predicating what you will want to do and adapting to your specific needs.”
What’s the most important thing enterprises should know about BlackBerry? “BlackBerry has the only behind the firewall solution. This empowers companies to solve real business issues by accessing critical corporate data, and leveraging standards-based development like HTML5 without having to build security or connectivity into their application. Security and connectivity are already there. It just works,” said Gregg Ostrowski, senior director, enterprise developer and technical partnerships for RIM, in an interview on Monday, Oct. 1.
BYOD and BB
At the event, Heins proclaimed BYOD as the reality, pointing out that CIOs have embraced it. However, in this environment security, privacy and data protection are still pain points for IT. “We take that pain point away with BlackBerry Balance,” he said.
BlackBerry Balance technology and BB10 separate personal content from the corporate content, giving “freedom to the users while still protecting the enterprises and allowing them to manage the assets and information fully encrypted, fully secure.”
There are actually two separate identities on one device. While this is obvious from the UI, Heins emphasized that this separation exists “down to the OS level.”
He called Vivek Bhardwaj, head of the software portfolio for RIM to the stage. Bhardwaj demonstrated this separation and showed how, when you easily switch back and forth, it's as if there are two devices. Everything changes; not just email, but apps and more.
Bhardwaj said that there will be no more in and out of personal versus work at the same time; the device knows how to act based on which side it’s on. This also enables IT to wipe out corporate data without wiping personal data.
Security for Any Device
Heins stated that with BlackBerry Enterprise Services, organizations will have “one unified console view of complete mobile infrastructure, so IT managers can have IT support and security for every device in their enterprise, regardless of whether it’s a BlackBerry, which we prefer, or any other smartphone or tablet.”
Jeff Holleran, senior director, enterprise product management for the company, said in an interview on Monday, Oct. 1, “RIM continues to be the global leader in managing enterprise mobility with a robust product offering, and has announced a roadmap for BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10. RIM continues to support the needs of our enterprise customers that have end users purchasing their own devices. BlackBerry 10 smartphones, when connected to BES 10, will leverage BlackBerry Balance technology, which creates separate spaces for work and personal data with a unified experience for messaging, communication, and apps.”
Application developers continue to choose BlackBerry 10 as a target platform, and apps from Cisco, Foursquare, Sencha, Gameloft, Halfbrick Studios, Madfinger Games and Funkoi were revealed at the event to demonstrate apps that are feature rich and integrated with core functions of BlackBerry 10.
A recent survey conducted by RIM of the BlackBerry developers using the 5,000 Dev Alpha test devices distributed during the BlackBerry Jam World Tour, found that 99% of respondents had already started BlackBerry 10 projects.
“The response to BlackBerry 10 on all levels has been incredible, and developers have certainly embraced this new platform and are taking early advantage of the tools and support we are providing to them. Our community is telling us about apps from every category that look and feel just amazing,” said Alec Saunders, vice president, developer relations and ecosystems at Research In Motion. “With our new SDK build now available, applications can really take advantage of our integration and sharing features. This really allows that heightened level of differentiation for apps that platform providers should be bringing to their communities.”
The SDKs for BlackBerry 10 were updated last week to bring more collaboration, native feature integration and app sharing opportunities.
Last week, the company also reported second quarter results for the three months ended September 1, 2012. Highlights include a BlackBerry subscriber base increased to approximately 80 million global subscribers and revenue of $2.9 billion, a 2% increase over Q1.
RIM shipped approximately 7.4 million BlackBerry smartphones and shipped approximately 130,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.
Of the results, Heins noted in a separate statement, “Despite the significant changes we are implementing across the organization, our second quarter results demonstrate that RIM is progressing on its financial and operational commitments during this major transition. Make no mistake about it; we understand that we have much more work to do, but we are making the organizational changes to drive improvements across the company, our employees are committed and motivated, and BlackBerry 10 is on track to launch in the first calendar quarter of 2013.”
He touched upon progress and direction at the Jam event as well, saying that there is a new culture at RIM, a new energy and “a lot of fighting spirit.”
Outlook from RIM
The company stated that it expects there will be continued pressure on operating results for the remainder of the fiscal year, based on the increasing competitive environment, lower handset volumes, increased marketing expenses associated with the launch of BlackBerry 10, and some impact from pressure by customers to reduce RIM’s monthly infrastructure access fees.
RIM plans to continue to invest in targeted marketing and sales programs to aggressively drive sales of BlackBerry 7 handheld devices before the anticipated launch of the BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
The company expects to report an operating loss in the third quarter of fiscal as it continues to work through the transition to BlackBerry 10 and completes its CORE program.
Future is Touted
In closing his session, Heins said the company is “laser focused” and made it clear that they are listening to users and partners. He said the company has a defined vision to deliver for the next decade. In one final statement, he made sure to address the competition from Apple. “It's about conversation - not isolation.” The emphasis here was on the “i.”
From the Street
Word on the street is mixed. While stocks did jump after the initial earnings release, Barron’s believes that RIM needs to worry because it will have no device to offer for the upcoming holiday season. In addition, Tiernan Ray writes, “Perhaps most disappointing, a continuing review of financial options that began at the end of May, still has yet to produce any conclusions, much less the licensing of RIM's technology, something the Street has been hoping for.”
NY Times blogger Ian Austen, however, noted that “Some Analysts Start to Like RIM.” Austen interviewed Kris Thompson from National Bank Financial in Toronto who told him, “My guess is that the stock caught a bottom here, and you’re going to see momentum throughout the holiday season. Everyone was expecting the worst, and they really overperformed on every metric.”