The Success Factors of BlackBerry 10
30 January 2013

The Success Factors of BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry 10 is aimed at a mass audience. The BlackBerry brand has lost so much of its cachet with consumers and it will take a long time to win them back.

Blackberry prepares for a crucial moment in its history as it launches its new array of BlackBerry 10 smartphones and is relying on loyal customers to buy into Blackberry's comeback narrative.

Survival and the Corporation

Corporate and government clients are the cornerstone of Blackberry’s user-base and expansion globally. They represent the customers who are the most loyal to BlackBerry. Blackberry business users comprise 20 million of their 79 million users globally. Corporate users buy the more expensive phones and also purchase enterprise software licenses to support these devices. This has created a stable and lucrative revenue stream for Blackberry.

BlackBerry 10 is aimed at a mass audience. The BlackBerry brand has lost so much of its cachet with consumers and it will take a long time to win them back.

The strategy Blackberry is using is to persuade a large number of their 20 million business customers to upgrade to Blackberry 10. This will begin the process of ending the downward spiral and begin to take the company out of a financial nosedive through the creation of a profitable business built around these core customers.

If corporate customers buy into Blackberry 10, they will change the perception that Blackberry is irrelevant and dying and this will give Blackberry more time to turn the company around.

The Keyboard

Blackberry die-hards like the keyboard. Many can't see themselves ever tapping on a glass screen with no tactile feedback from a clicky keyboard. I recenty bought a keyboard cover for my iPad that has a real clicky keyboard. I find myself using my iPad much more than I did before and it has now become a viable alternative to my laptop. Keyboards matter, no matter what Apple and Google say.

So the keyboard will definitely bring users back to Blackberry 10. In my opinion.

There are sone question about Blackberry confusing its keyboard message. Business customers are getting confused about whether the first BlackBerry 10 phone will launch with a physical keyboard.

Many loyal business customers like Blackberry's because they has a physical keyboard. These customers are not going to be impressed with a touch screen keyboard and want their physical keyboard.

Customers who are waiting for BlackBerry 10 devices will assume that the device will have a physical keyboard. When they find out the launch devices won't have physical keyboards they are not going to be very happy. What will they do?

Bringing Your Own Device To Work

The latest trend is for employees to bring their iPhones and Android devices to their workplace and use them for both work and play. The employees, not the corporate IT department, are deciding what device to use within the corporation.

This means, instead of buying a BlackBerry for employees, they’ll allow them to get their corporate e-mail on their own personal phones, often sharing the cost. That’s part of a broader trend that chief information officers call the “consumer-ization of IT". Devices, software, and trends that are popular among consumers spread to the business world.

Many people now prefer to use smartphones manufactured by Apple, Samsung, and HTC devices at the expense of Blackberry's smartphone marketshare. This is to be expected. Even Apple has lost market share to Samsung.

Blackberry may have a flawed strategy because smartphones have become commoditized, and Western consumers’ preference for iPhones and Android phones has slowly spilled over into the business world.

The delays in BB10 caused some businesses to supplement or replace aging BlackBerrys with other, non-Blackberry devices because they had to.

Understanding the Stakes

The stakes for Blackberry  are much higher than ever before.

BlackBerry 10 is an entirely new smartphone platform launched during a time of intense smartphone competition.

If Blackberry fails or if it achieves only modest success, the company will have to explore the more realistic option in its strategy, the sale or break up of the company. Given the success of Android and iPhone devices, what do you think their chances are in the next year?

Blackberry’s top management has been able to deflect the difficult questions about the company’s future by saying, “wait until BlackBerry 10 launches."

That wait is now over. The sales figures will come in and the verdict will be cast in in February 2013. This narrative has become a great stalling tactic that will abruptly come to an end in February 2013.

Putting It In Perspective

Apple sold a record 47.8 million iPhones in Q4 2012 and this is more than half of Blackberry’s global base of 79 million BlackBerry users.

The trend is strongest in the U.S. where Apple's brand has risen while Blackberry's has fallen. U.S. corporations tend to replace BlackBerrys with iPhones because of their integration with iPads. By contrast, Blackberry’s PlayBook tablet has been reviewed as unimpressive and the tablet is unable to function properly without being tethered to a BlackBerry.

What's Going On Now

Blackberry now has 130 corporate customers evaluating BlackBerry 10 devices. These companies span financial services, government, health care and other industries.

More than 1,600 businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, are registered for what Blackberry calls the BlackBerry 10 “ready program,” which prepares companies to deploy Blackberry’s new phones at launch.

Security Advantage: The Good and the Bad

To make matter worse, the security advantage of Blackberry devices is fading. iPhones and Android devices have become more secure and not every company – particularly those that now have iPhones in the mix – need the type of security that BlackBerrys offer.

There are some industries where confidentiality is important and have never strayed from Blackberry. These industries will be happy about BB10 because they offer a better-enabled devices with newer functionality and capabilities.

Blackberry recently launched a new version of the software that helps businesses manage BlackBerrys. The new software allows businesses to manage iPhones and Android phones with Blackberry devices.

Corporations know that the Blackberry is the most secure, the most diverse mobile device management platform. Blackberry's management solutions support more devices, including BlackBerry devices and other devices. Today, the competition can't even come close.

Glimmers of Hope

The Windows Phone has largely failed to gain traction. Blackberry is still more popular than Microsoft’s Windows Phone software as a business alternative to Apple and Android.

The success of BlackBerry 10 will also depend on how well major carriers push the devices with promotions, subsidized prices and plans for businesses.

The Bottom Line

BlackBerry 10 will launch and there will be a global marketing campaign. After the die-hards have bought their devices, the BB10 will have to perform better than iPhones and Android devices or people will pass on BB10.

The word on the street is scepticism and people seem to need some convincing. There are so many fantastic smartphones out there today and the competition is brutally fierce.

What seals the fate of Blackberry for me are the iPhone and Android sales figures. Android and iPhone devices are flying off the shelves in numbers that Blackberry cannot realistically compete with in 2013.