BlackBerry won’t give up on devices, but enterprise remains top priority

Vendor’s recovery involves a lot of the ‘same old’ customers, but through a new internal structure

Left: BlackBerry Australia managing director, Matt Ball; Right: BlackBerry's Passport smartphone (launch TBA).

Left: BlackBerry Australia managing director, Matt Ball; Right: BlackBerry's Passport smartphone (launch TBA).

From a devices perspective, BlackBerry went from being arguably the go-to vendor for mobile device deployments, to a heavily-scrutinised brand among consumers on the back of the boom in Android and iOS-based smartphones (and tablets).

But the vendor’s message is: “if there wasn’t a business for BlackBerry in the devices market, we wouldn’t be in it,” Australian managing director, Matt Ball, said. It will continue to make devices, whether these be standard-looking smartphones, or the screen-and-keyboard hybrid that is the soon-to-be-launched BlackBerry Passport.

According to Ball, BlackBerry Australia’s devices business has experienced growth in recent quarters. He claims the company tripled its local market share in the first calendar quarter of the year, and doubled it again last quarter.

Optimism aside, “a three per cent market share isn’t much to celebrate.” But while the figure appears a detriment, BlackBerry’s proposition isn’t, and hasn’t been, exclusively about devices, nor the consumer space – the hardware is complementary.

“By having that devices business, it enables us to get a much larger slice of the Australian enterprise revenue on an annual basis,” Ball said. “The businesses we work with contact us about our enterprise mobility play; we won’t push standalone devices.”

Financials and market share aside, it is a case of ‘same old’ for BlackBerry which, despite its September 2013 restructure, is targeting the same customers with security and mobility management at the forefront.

“BlackBerry underwent a transition into establishing four distinct yet interoperable business units: devices, enterprise mobile device management [MDM], unified communications [UC], and an Internet of Things [IoT] play,” Ball said.

It is a move that came as part of the appointment of John Chen as chief executive officer (CEO) on November 4, and the subsequent sacking of a number of high-profile executives as part of Chen’s structural re-alignment with the promise of a BlackBerry turn-around.

Chen takes it a step further, stating that, “While we applaud Google and Samsung for their plans, we don’t think it’s enough for security-minded enterprises. Instead, look to companies that have literally invested three decades into advancing the twin causes of security and productivity.”

And let’s not forget that BlackBerry secures its own product, and works with Android and iOS smartphones and tablets as well via its BlackBerry Enterprises Services 10 (BES10); support for Windows 8 is coming later this year with the launch of BES12.

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Nonetheless, its targets were retained amid the shuffle; “Our key areas are enterprise and government, separated around verticals of financial services, professional services, healthcare, and mining.”

In June, Ball told ARN BlackBerry would give greater attention to the channel to help its turn-around.

“We are going to be truly offering customers choice and we are working pretty deeply with our channel partners who are driving home what the unique proposition is.”

Of particular interest is its goal of taking a leading role in IoT through Project Ion, which intends to help businesses connect people, devices, and machine, and create value from these.

"We are working on identifying how does BlackBerry take a leading role in IOT," he said.

"We need partners to be able to do that and for us they will be more non-traditional partners then we have ever had before.

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"We are working with them to close out opportunities from a channel perspective, with partners who have established relationships with the customer."

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