They certainly aren’t going to go down without a fight. With the bad taste of the Playbook finally out of the corporate system, the gang BlackBerry is looking to have another go at a tablet.
On the surface, this looks like a really good idea: Accept that the mainstream mobile computing market isn’t really interested in anything called “BlackBerry” right now, and instead take aim at a niche that is already a comfort zone for the company. While there are already high-security enterprise solutions available from other tablet manufacturers (including the big one) the fact that a lot of senior IT management types still understand and trust the BlackBerry infrastructure carries some serious weight in the market.
The strategy of using that weight to get the company’s foot back in the door and – hopefully – an eventual wedge to get back into the more lucrative consumer markets is a good one. There are, however, three bumps in the road – one minor, one worrisome, and one potentially fatal – that need to be addressed before they torpedo this particular ship before it ever gets out of the harbour.
The Minor One: Tablets are mobile devices but people don’t purchase them as such. While phones get replaced and updated on a constant basis, tablets are treated more like a traditional computer. People buy them to last and hang on to them until the bitter end … enterprise purchasers even more so. BlackBerry’s traditional revenue models and expectations of success have long been built on regular turnover of hardware, and the success or failure of this product needs a change of corporate mindset to look at the goals and income curve as a much, much longer process. The clock might be ticking for BlackBerry, but they need to use some patience and take a decidedly long-term view here.
The Worrisome One: Blackberry has partnered with Samsung on the security front and is touting the KNOX technology as the keystone of the new tablet’s security. Oops. KNOX is already known to have serious security flaws and is less than ideal hook to hang your hat on – especially for a company that still waves the security flag as one of their corporate strengths. Why BlackBerry would partner with someone else on the security front is beyond me … and why they would parter with a purveyor of a broken system just boggles the mind. The very last straw for these guys would be another public security fiasco. Why risk it?
The Potentially Fatal One: Despite all assurances to the contrary, developers are still treated as something of a grubby little afterthought at BlackBerry. Things are somewhat better than the bad old days but there is still a deep-running mindset at senior levels of the company that the BlackBerry way is the only way – if something needs to be done on a handset it’s already in the operating system, so why do we need to support these developer types? Without developers and a robust application ecosystem you have have nothing. No appeal. No desirability. And no future. At all.
Can BlackBerry overcome these three issues and get back into the game with what looks to be both an interesting new idea and a smart bit of market targeting? Number one? Easy – that’s just business. Number two? From a technical standpoint, at least, that’s another “yes” … BlackBerry knows security. Getting out of a high-profile corporate partnership and doing it yourself, however, that might be something that gets a bit tangled.
But number three? That’s the hard one. Disdain for developers has percolated through the company for years. It’s why the iPhone caught BlackBerry flat-footed. It’s why the BB10 ecosystem is still pretty much flatlined. It’s why they had to resort to paying people to switch to the otherwise-excellent Passport. Can they finally start to learn from these mistakes? Or is the corporate inertia in the most crucial part of the equation one that they simply won’t be able to overcome?