Blackberry has become an enigma in the tech world by being that company that refuses to die, and I for one, couldn’t be happier about that. Blackberry used to the powerhouse tech company of the mobile world. Then, the iPhone was introduced and suddenly physical keyboards became passé and their domineering market share began to slip. First just a little, and then it almost fell off the chart, down to an astonishing 0.3% of the market as of the first quarter in 2015 according to IDC.
So where did it all go wrong and why do we care? Blackberry’s strong hold on the market all but dissipated around 2011 when the iPhone became an overnight sensation. For two years afterwards their market share dropped to single digits and the company looked poised to shut it doors for good. That was until 2013 when they brought in John Chen as their new CEO. Chen is one of the few CEO’s with a record that just astonishes. He managed to turn around a dying corporation with a valuation at just over $300 million in 1998 to a company that was acquired for $5.8 billion in 2011. So how does this help Blackberry?
Under Chen’s leadership, the company has shifted its focus from its former main arena of creating smartphones that only operate the Blackberry OS, to become more of a security company. Since Chen’s arrival Blackberry has really focused on providing enhanced encryption and virtual security to corporations who once used their mobile platform as their preferred company phone. Their security offerings are among some of the most secure in the mobile world and are ideally suited to business.
When then of the company’s phones? They’ve put out the Z10, Torch, Classic, Passport, and now they’re teasing a new slider phone that’s in the works. It looks like Blackberry is planning their boldest move yet: supporting the Android OS. For both Android and Blackberry this appears to be a strategic partnership. After all Blackberry was really never faulted for making poor phones, because they never did. They were faulted for having a limited OS that didn’t integrated well with more conventional systems like Android and iOS. Android, for its part, would love a stab at the business market share the Apple currently commands and Blackberry may be able to give them that edge.
Although a bold move, it is hardly unprecedented for the struggling company. Blackberry took a stab at a larger market share when they supported Amazon apps for the Passport and Classic, but considering Amazon hasn’t had much success in the mobile market either, it didn’t seem like the best fit. But now, partnering with Google places Blackberry in an interesting position where we might actually see a resurgence of the brand. There’s no doubt that their business security platform is going to be a selling point as corporations and governments look to new phones for their operations that can offer a level of protection and security that is currently otherwise unavailable.
I actually like the Blackberry brand. For one, I liked their phones back when I had them. And now I like them because they’re the little guys who might make it back from technological obscurity. So keep your chin up Blackberry. You still have one fan rooting for you.
Photo credit: Junyu Wang