A while back I wrote about the Rise of Blackberry, which I still believe in, although things seem to have taken a year longer than expected, but much has changed in the World of BB.
Suddenly, it seems, BlackBerry is no longer catching up in the handset arena and may be in front… but careful here! The handset arena is not where BlackBerry is becoming powerful, although I believe John Chen correctly sees a marketing future in which the device is a doorway to the bigger and wider world of “things” and security, and control. The future is not missed in the plans of the former productivity company.
How about a quick comparison to Harley Davidson which at one time sold 20,000 or so motorcycles to the Government and later ended up with many soldiers wanting one of their own when they returned from WWI. This was successful enough that they did it again in WWII, building on a niche of followers familiar with the product. BlackBerry will find the same “soldiers” of handsets as they continue to innovate in other areas.
The new BlackBerry phone called the KEYone is definitely a doorway device. They are capitalizing on the familiarity of the original BB design which draws attention because it is very recognizable. If you have not used one of these new keyboards you would be surprised to find that it is faster to type on simply because it is more accurate; fewer misspelled words means much faster completion. It may not matter to you that you misspell words all the time when texting to friends, but in the business and communication world of social media it has an impact on sales, impression, and number of followers.
Personally I use a Priv which has a very good physical keyboard that slides out and also has the amazing BlackBerry touchscreen keyboard when it is closed, allowing you to ‘flick’ the suggested words into your text or document using gestures. The physical keyboard also has this ability by swiping up quickly on it and in the perceived column under the suggested word you would choose. This is fast! I never became great at the newer touchscreen keyboards but my wife is an ace, especially using swipe. However, after using the Passport and getting used to the physical keyboard, she seems to be much happier because she uses this instead of her laptop or tablet.
If you look at the BlackBerry website you will find that smartphones are not the primary business of the company anymore. Instead they take about 4th position. Still, if you drop down the menu for smartphones or click on it, you will find 5 excellent models available, yes that’s 5! Two are BlackBerry 10 units (real BlackBerry phones) and the rest are now Android based devices with BlackBerry software for security and apps. My personal phone, the Priv, is Android based and my wife’s phone is a Passport using BlackBerry 10 OS. I like my phone, especially because I do use a lot of Google and Android apps along with MS Office, so it works for me and the DTEK security is excellent. From time to time I am allowed to use my wife’s Passport and I am always blown away by how fast and intuitive it is. It may not be fully compatible with the open world of Android but who gives a rip when the productivity is so dang high! Another thing about the Passport is you get to use BlackBerry Blend and BlackBerry Link which means you can run it from your computer with ease, sync easily, and really get some work done. I will miss these applications if they end and truly hope they are extended into the Android platform instead. One thing is for sure, if they offer another BB10 OS phone I will be near the front of the line to get one!
Speaking of ending, the thing BlackBerry has left us with is the expectation of productivity. For some strange reason people just don’t buy productivity like they used to, instead they go for entertainment, and this to our great downfall. Maybe it takes a bull market to create a need for prosperity and productivity, in which case the current markets and positive business direction may bring back some of the better days and we will see the full return of BlackBerry devices alongside their newer software ventures. Side note: you know how people walk into a pole or something while using their cell phone? I have yet to see anyone with a BlackBerry do that (prove me wrong).
All this leads to an important point regarding BlackBerry which I will now repeat, it is not primarily a handset company but is instead all about IoT (the Internet of Things), networked security, tracking, and much more. These are not just new lines of business to keep up with other companies but are in fact lines which they have been pursuing for some time, and in some cases they bought out other companies which already had deep roots and better focus. They have really structured a powerhouse of opportunity and are at the cutting edge of the next technology services needed for smarter things like cars, trucks, transportation and much more. Just check out their Core IoT Platform and QNX for yourself.
So ignore BlackBerry all you want, with an attitude that the keyboard is out of date and out of style. I don’t think it will take long for you to change your mind or for your boss to change it for you in the near future. Now just consider two things: 1) your car may be utilizing BlackBerry in its dashboard information system, and 2) do your prefer your keyboard at your computer when you are typing a long document or would you rather slop through it on your ‘boardless iPhone?