1. crackerdoodle's Avatar
    Can BlackBerry survive? Well, the woods are still full of bear poo
    BES and BBM, QED: Not RIP IMO

    Can BlackBerry survive? Well, the woods are still full of bear poo ? The Register

    By Andrew Orlowski ē Get more from this author

    Posted in Mobile, 11th February 2013 10:32 GMT



    Analysis BlackBerry brought its top bosses to Europe this week for its annual Jam developer event on the continent. With the launch of the new BlackBerry OS 10, and its Z10 and Q10 smartphones, now behind it, this is a good time to look at company's realistic prospects.

    I think the Canadian tech giant still holds a few aces, but before reviewing these positives, a sobering recap of its position is in order.

    I'll start with the challenges:

    1. It isn't mandatory any more

    BlackBerryís uniqueness - it's end-to-end secure messaging - gained it armies of enterprise users in governments, the public sector, and companies large and small. The good news is that it is hard for these organisations to reverse their decision to use BlackBerry.

    However, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server software - required and installed in those aforementioned office environments - is no longer unique in its field. Corporates peering at Blackberry OS 10 are told that if you havenít got BlackBerry servers, donít worry. ActiveSync has won the push email battle, and BlackBerry competes around it on management controls, its own social network (aka BlackBerry Messenger) and to a lesser extent application deployment. I canít see the public sector and government customers moving terribly quickly.

    2. The middle-class has fled

    Ordinary punters using TCOKARIM*'s handsets are either on prepay deals or low-value monthly contracts, or they're in emerging markets. The "middle-class" smartphone user willing to shell out at least £30 a month on a smartphone probably moved away three years ago. At long last, with BlackBerry OS 10, the company is in a position to win them back - imaging and music are up to par with the competition, for instance.

    Which leaves what, exactly, is the BlackBerry differentiator? BBM, presumably. And questions remain whether the attractive new operating system (which seems to require 2GB of RAM) can meet the low-earning punters half way. It is possible to carve out margins in ferociously competitive emerging markets - we've seen Nokia do a terrific job in Asia - but nothing yet announced by TCOKARIM satisfies that segment, yet. We need to see low-cost up-to-date 'Berries soon.

    3. Apps, apps, and apps

    BB OS 10 is a brand-new platform playing in a market where phones are chosen on the availability of lifestyle apps. I hear anecdotally that the largest reason cited for returns on Windows Phone is the lack of applications in the Windows Store. At launch, BlackBerry promised a list of well-known names, including the Kindle e-book viewer and voice-chat tool Skype, being ported to the new platform. But Windows Phone can boast Skype and Kindle apps too - and NetFlix - and that evidently isn't enough to move the needle. Facebook's gateway drug - the duopoly has Instagram - is still a deal-breaker.

    4. We're still live guinea pigs for BlackBerry OS 10

    BB10 today doesnít boost productivity for power users. It needs to be tweaked for them so they can easily switch between tasks.

    5. BIS bashed, boshed?

    The new strategy makes BlackBerry Internet Service - which neatly routes encrypted email and other mobile data through BlackBerry's systems - optional, and this may cause uncertainty and confusion that BlackBerry really doesn't need. The plus side is that you don't need a BlackBerry-provisioned SIM to enjoy using a BlackBerry phone with BBM: any carrier's mobile-data-enabled SIM will do.

    But this means that those upgrading to the new Z10 and Q10 phones (the first handsets powered by BlackBerry OS 10) are now swimming in the same shark-infested waters as everyone else. For example, will mobile networks count your BBM traffic as part of your 3G or 4G data usage?

    This remains to be seen, and operators who are rooting for BlackBerry as a third platform will have to step up and help here with attractive bundles and clear assurances. This is a price conscious bit of the market - they don't want nasty surprises.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Lest we forget, there are some advantages. In the rush to bury RIM, pundits have often overlooked these:

    1. Destiny is in BlackBerry's hands

    BlackBerry owns its own platform. This is the single biggest drawback for stock-market short sellers, but it's also a tremendous advantage. The company can produce rapid iterations of the software - as fast as the carriers can clear them. It can be responsive to requests and make tweaks. (BBOS 7 is a testament to this - full of useful usability features). Nokia, for example, can only make requests and hope the memo doesn't get lost in the Microsoft bureaucracy.

    (I'm oversimplifying, integration work between Microsoft and its partners is close, but the notoriously dogmatic Metro team do like to take things at their own sweet pace - the Me hub has been unchanged since launch.)

    2. Itís got customers - lots of them

    If you want to make a BlackBerry executive's teeth grind, just mention "the battle for the third ecosystem". BlackBerry is comfortably in third place already, with 80m active punters and 60m addicted to BBM. There are 8m in the UK alone. Itís much easier for a company to sell into an existing customer base (and former users who may still retain some affection for the brand) than get an entirely new and unknown platform airborne - as Microsoft is finding out. The users wait for the apps and the developers wait for the users.

    3. Multi-device promiscuity

    Here's a market development that hasn't received much attention. Amazon's entry into the tablet market and the general acceptance of carrying multiple devices changes things quite subtly. It's not unusual to see someone with an iPad Mini, iPhone and monochrome Kindle reader - mmm, I know - or an Android, a BlackBerry and an iPad. What changes is the rationale of a purchasing decision.

    The "second mobile screen" allows people to remain part of the Apple app ecosystem and choose as a phone, an alternative based on criteria they hold dear. The smartphone no longer has to do it all - it can be smaller, or more specialised - around one unique selling point. Some might choose a great camera - or perhaps BBM. This must give Nokia and RIM, who currently have just 10 per cent of the smartphone market, some hope.

    I can't quite believe Steve Jobs would ever have sanctioned the release of the iPad Mini: from an aesthetics point of view it's a mess, it's underpowered, and it cannibalises sales of Apple's higher margin fondleslabs. But the cat's out of the bag, now.

    4. BlackBerry's developer relations team are outstanding

    No one tries harder with developers than BlackBerry. Its developer effort is not just coherent, but backed with graft and attention. By contrast, Apple leaves its commandments at the top of the mountain, and developers have to climb up to the top to read them.

    This is not quite a throwback to the Gassee era, when it was Cupertino policy that developers should write for Apple purely out of love, but there isn't anything like the level of intimacy and interaction with Apple, Google or Microsoft. If you have a problem, someone will try and fix it.

    It helps, too, that the proposition is attractive: there's a great OS underneath and writing for Cascades, either in declarative QML and Javascript, or in C++ to Qt, looks attractive. The marketplace is busy - although it badly needs some QC, and more curation, but quality should shine here. It's very impressive to see sophisticated multiplatform tool sets like Unity supporting BB10.

    5. BES is still a huge asset

    Inertia helps. BlackBerry's Enterprise Server is still a mighty asset for a company that wishes to sell lots of client devices. BBM is used at least six times a week by 80 per cent of its enterprise users, BlackBerry claims. Nobody is going to be able to manage the existing client base better than TCOKARIM*, no matter how many BYOD Droids and iPhones walk into the building every day.

    BES is still a strong enterprise asset for in-house applications: it delivers notifications, and comes with its own secure tunnel. Of course, if TCOKARIM* gets its new pricing wrong (it's moving to a per-client access fee), it could nullify this asset.

    6. BB10 is bright and good

    In my First Take last week, I focussed on the many rough edges of the new platform, some of which are quite inexplicable. After a bumpy launch, in which the UK appears to be the world's beta tester, BlackBerry needs to get a bugfix release out urgently. But the gotchas - such as the inability to swipe through successive messages rapidly, or the drunken rotation from landscape to portrait - are relatively easy to fix.

    BlackBerry is a very responsive company, and it's able to make such changes quickly, unlike manufacturers who are reliant on a third party. I'm surprised how rapidly the BB10 gestures become so natural, you curse their absence on other devices. (I particularly like the task-switching, which is best on the market). BB10 already offers excellent video recording, and possibly the best browser on a smartphone.

    Great software is often written by small teams - and BB10 has the feel of a small team of clever developers and designers doing something a bit special, of trying really hard to be imaginative. This is great to see.

    7. BBM, BBM, BBM

    Only the smarter analysts seem to fully appreciate the value of BlackBerry Messenger, the social-network-in-hardware with 60m users. As I wrote here in 2010, before it achieved its riotous notoriety, BBM is the richest social network in the world, allowing the spontaneous creation of ad hoc groups, and authentication web companies can only dream about.

    All in all, it's probably the best UX anyone in mobile has come up with: a communications gateway to the entire "experience". BlackBerry has chosen to bundle BBM exclusively with its own hardware, which means it's the only licensee of BBM, but gains a $150 margin for each user. But what if it had 600m instead of 60m, at $15 per license? Or a billion?

    If you can envisage companies like Sky using BBM embedded into their delivery systems to drive engagement, then a billion users doesn't seem so far fetched. BBM really is the greatest and most underrated technology asset in the world today.

    So there are worse place to be than BlackBerry HQ today. Declaring success or failure at this stage is a tad premature. ģ
    02-11-13 08:53 PM
  2. Shanerredflag's Avatar
    Great article...truthful and deliberate. Thx
    02-11-13 09:10 PM
  3. Bbnivende's Avatar
    Great article BUT I bet BB and Samsung wish they had Apple's Ipad mini "problem".
    02-11-13 09:11 PM
  4. richardat's Avatar
    I think that was a reasonably good assessment. Maybe a bit too optimistic overall, but I wouldn't protest his points to harshly except perhaps developer relations. I'm beginning to think that the "new" relations are largely smoke and mirrors based on talking to a few developers I know, and more importantly, the lack of actual results. We shall see on that front - as with all the others.
    02-11-13 09:31 PM
  5. Bbnivende's Avatar
    I think that was a reasonably good assessment. Maybe a bit too optimistic overall, but I wouldn't protest his points to harshly except perhaps developer relations. I'm beginning to think that the "new" relations are largely smoke and mirrors based on talking to a few developers I know, and more importantly, the lack of actual results. We shall see on that front - as with all the others.
    I was wondering that same thing. In another thread users were complaining about missing Apps that they had with the BB 7. My thoughts were that BB should of course gone after the big social media Apps but also the most popular of the Apps on the old system as well. Maybe they did and they will come shortly. For example something as simple as my bank app. I have a question perhaps someone can answer. In Blackberry world that you can access on line ( on a PC) how are the apps segregated between BB10 and BB7 ?
    richardat likes this.
    02-11-13 10:49 PM
  6. Blackberry_boffin's Avatar
    Apps.
    A Saunders did say BB10 apps were coming in at a rate of about 1000 a day.
    Lets face that is commendable at the very least and one suspects the approvals team is inundated at this point.
    Then there is the very reasonable observation that BB7 apps should be there right now but let's be reasonable unlike in OS5 to OS6 and OS7 there is zero code shared and it's not a minor tweak here and there. It's probably harder than making an Android port.
    That said they could easily be amongst the 1000 a day coming in.
    I think since RIM launched with 70000 on the 30, if they launch in the US with 100K (possible at this rate) this claimed progress will be vindicated
    We will have to see.
    richardat and KiLuMaNaTi like this.
    02-12-13 12:37 AM
  7. richardat's Avatar
    Apps.
    A Saunders did say BB10 apps were coming in at a rate of about 1000 a day.
    Lets face that is commendable at the very least and one suspects the approvals team is inundated at this point.
    Then there is the very reasonable observation that BB7 apps should be there right now but let's be reasonable unlike in OS5 to OS6 and OS7 there is zero code shared and it's not a minor tweak here and there. It's probably harder than making an Android port.
    That said they could easily be amongst the 1000 a day coming in.
    I think since RIM launched with 70000 on the 30, if they launch in the US with 100K (possible at this rate) this claimed progress will be vindicated
    We will have to see.
    I don't think that will vindicate them at all. In fact....it would support what I am beginning to think which is that Saunders prime directive had nothing to do with quality apps, or reaching out meaningfully to the greater community....I think he was told, first and foremost, just hit that number. Thus the "portathons" (I've had two developers howling in laughter at my description, and their subsequent looking-up details on these events). In that sense....Saunders DID do his job...I've just beginning to think that his job is a superficial quick fix. Having said that, I knew his job would be incredibly difficult. All that BS about quality apps, and getting the big names....honestly...yes, it makes a nice bullet point - and they've been playing it- to say "more apps than any other launch"....but they would have been better off launching with.....500 apps....if the top 30 were there and ready! People (well journalists) see through that number pretty quickly now, and regular folks only care whether their favorites are there.

    One BB developer i talked to was saying that a lot of tools had been delayed or missing.....but I'm not qualified to talk about that....I've programmed, but not for a mobile platform, and it was mostly greek to me not knowing the platform at all.

    I do agree though...time will tell. If sales are there (and I mean BIG BIG sales - this is one of the reasons I'm pessimistic....because you need to be a "playa"...not just limp along), then apps will come along....if not....they will eventually fall further behind.
    02-12-13 03:28 AM
  8. MC_A_DOT's Avatar
    I was drawn in by the name of the thread lol. Good article
    02-12-13 09:53 AM
  9. Bbnivende's Avatar
    Yes I would really like to know why Instagram was not there from the beginning. I agree the strategy was mainly to get the number up because that is a media demand.
    BB spent a ton of money on the jams when some of that money should have gone to help entice the big players and big current BB7 apps dev's. I hope that Thor personally reached out to the big players. Ah well... if BB10 sells in sufficient numbers the apps should come - that is where we are at now.
    richardat likes this.
    02-12-13 10:12 AM
  10. Whitecaps's Avatar
    Yes I would really like to know why Instagram was not there from the beginning. I agree the strategy was mainly to get the number up because that is a media demand.
    BB spent a ton of money on the jams when some of that money should have gone to help entice the big players and big current BB7 apps dev's. I hope that Thor personally reached out to the big players. Ah well... if BB10 sells in sufficient numbers the apps should come - that is where we are at now.
    I'm sure the Jam had also attracted the big boys as well
    02-13-13 10:34 PM

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