Blackberry was once the darling of the smartphone world. In 2008 they had over 50% marketshare in the US. Now they have a market share of just 0.6%!
Blackberry’s rise and fall is different from most because it started off as a product with a heavy focus on the corporate world. However, its real growth in marketshare and profit began when they when they started to cater to the consumer market. At its peak Blackberry was unstoppable in no small part to the extremely popular Blackberry Messenger (BBM) service. When Blackberry was firing on all cylinders I remember feeling like I was always out of the loop, and not having a Blackberry put a serious dent in my social life. So in late 2010 I bought a used Bold 9000 to join the BBM club.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I jumped in near the end of RIM’s market dominance and I was thrilled when I was given an iPhone 4 less than a year later.
Contrast that to now. Blackberry is giving away BBM on all platforms almost for the opposite reason: its BBM customers have no one else to talk to. From a financial point of view, it’s not clear what Blackberry’s plans for BBM were; however, with Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19 billion, it would appear that Blackberry has missed the boat once again. The consumer market that fueled their explosive growth has now turned its back on them.
For this reason, Blackberry has started running from the consumer market and is going back to its roots: enterprise. Blackberry has a reputation for providing world class security on its devices through its Blackberry Enterprise Service (BES). This service offers end-to-end encryption of all communications, industry leading mobile device management (MDM), and assurance that the company has full, granular control of the device. Some of their inventions are brilliant: Blackberry Fusion allows an end user to have a personal profile that is not controlled by BES running alongside a fully secure BES portion. With many employees bringing their own devices to work, this satisfies both IT, who wants to ensure that company information is secure, and end users who don’t want to personalize their device. Both parties are happy
In summary, Blackberry makes a fantastic product for enterprise companies and even some of the consumer features they offer are cutting edge.
There’s just one problem
NO ONE CARES
Most consumers, small businesses, and increasingly, enterprises don’t really need the security provided by BES. They don’t need end-to-end encryption and they don’t need the granular control that Blackberry provides. For most companies, all they need to do is enforce that PIN codes, enforce locking timeouts, and allow admins to remote wipe the device if it is lost. All of this can be done with Microsoft Exchange out of the box.
In other words, on device security is good enough.
I’m not sure if Blackberry is going to be able to turn itself around. I feel that they have focused too much on features that most of their customers don’t really care about. The market of smartphones is becoming increasingly commoditized and I predict that it is going to be harder for all smartphone manufacturers to make a profit. Except for Apple of course, but that’s another blog post.
Blackberry’s future is not at all written in stone and I will in a later post reveal why.