BB10 Gives Enterprise Customers a Sour Taste in their Mouths

BB CEO, John Chen admits that BB10 and the Blackberry Z10 left enterprise customers feeling confused

Having a mobile OS that’s intuitive is key to keeping your users engaged. Its key to attracting more users. In short, its key to continued success, in what has become the hottest computing market this side of anywhere in the known universe. Mobile computing… it’s what buys dinner.

Unfortunately, for RIM/Blackberry, despite their best efforts over the past six years or so, their distraction with the consumer market, BYOD and CoIT has damaged them in the eyes of their enterprise customers. According to Chen, previous BB CEO Thorsten Heins’ focus on the consumer market damaged the organization’s reputation.

BB10

“It is not about us leaving the enterprise customers before my time, but I think it is about us spreading ourselves a little too thin,” he said. “We spread ourselves too thin and we were so preoccupied with launching that phone [the Z10] in that market, that we have done some damage, in my mind, to our enterprise focus. That is not going to be any more. That has been done.”

Chen also called BB10, “very good, but too complex for the user.”

I’m not too certain how to take that. I mean, I agree; but how do you recover from that? What do you do? In Blackberry’s case, they are going to focus on their strengths – the enterprise. BES 12 was announced at Mobile World Congress this past week, and should be released before the end of calendar 2014. BES 12 will support all popular mobile OS – iOS, Android, and now, Windows Phone, besides its own OS. Users of rival mobile enterprise servers will be able to trade in their licenses and get the remaining time on that license on BES 12 for a free. Current users can upgrade to BES 12 for free, too. An enterprise version of BBM, Blackberry’s messaging platform, will also be available, “before the summer.”

From a device perspective, Blackberry is staying in the hardware business. Its latest handset, the QWERTY enabled Q20, is said to contain the best classic features most loved by its veteran users. It’s also due for release before the end of calendar 2014.

I’ve been a Blackberry watcher for quite some time, as RIM was THE name in mobile enterprise messaging for a long time before smartphones really became smartphones, leaving the PDA days behind them. They were rugged, high quality devices that allowed mobile employees and busy executives to stay in touch with the office and their teams while traveling or away from their desks. Their Push notification system became the defacto standard that everyone wanted and need to copy in order to be competitive not only in the enterprise space, but in the consumer space as well. The notifications you get on your smartphone of choice today can be traced in some way back to Blackberry’s push notification system.

For me, they are the company you love to hate. I never liked their devices. They were always a bit too rugged, clunky, and just plain ugly for me. Early versions of the device OS was too text-based for me when consumer-based devices like the Treo or any Windows Mobile device had a bright, colorful and inviting GUI. Described to me as an olive-drab army Jeep that just got the job done, Blackberries were the device that nearly every Exchange admin loved to work with; and I just couldn’t stand.

Looking at the information here, I can see a structured, concentrated effort to turn the company back down the road of core competency. This is an excellent strategy; but I’m a bit skeptical. I am wondering after so long, if Chen can turn Blackberry around and get it to be [somewhat] the enterprise darling it was back in the day.

The road back will be long and very tough, in my opinion. I do not see Blackberry making any money with native hardware. I think that ship has long sailed, and think that the Q20 and other devices will be nothing more than a money losing distraction. I think Blackberry would be much better off just concentrating on its enterprise software products. If it must be involved in the hardware business, it could partner with HTC or other hardware vendor and have them foot the bill for making and marketing the hardware. Blackberry has had such a hard time with the Storm, Storm 2, and its more recent Z10 and Q10 devices that it must just be a better idea to leave hardware to a trusted partner that has better experience with it.

My biggest concern with this particular tactic is obviously… partial failure. BES has always been a huge money maker for Blackberry and I think they should be fine there. The added support in their MDM for Windows Phone is going to make that offering much more attractive – BES will then support all the major mobile device operating systems and should offer support to everyone. That should bring a lot of comfort to current enterprise customers and may actually attract new ones.

However, I see Blackberry’s continued dalliance with handsets as a huge risk. Since 2007 – and the introduction of the iPhone – they have not been able to get it right. Their Storm and Storm 2 devices were abysmal, and BB10 was too confusing in an iPhone like body (with no physical keyboard) to attract and retain any customers. While they’re going to give it another go with the Q20, unless the world has some unforeseen epiphany when the device is released, BYOD and CoIT based enterprises aren’t going to bother much with it. I don’t see the Q20 making any kind of impact on the Blackberry world at all. I see it being yet ANOTHER money losing disappointment for an organization that is desperately trying to maintain its relevance in a world that left it behind long ago.

What do you think? Am I totally off my nut, or does this story have legs? Will BES 12 attract new customers? Will its free upgrade cost to existing enterprise users make them want to extend their service contracts? Will the Q20 be a money maker or a money loser? I’d love to have your thoughts in the discussion area below. Please give me your ideas and thoughts and lets hash it out a bit more…

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