I have written so many this-is-BlackBerry’s-last-chance pieces over the past couple of years that I am certainly not going to follow that theme this time. But the announcement of the BlackBerry DTEK50 shows this company has a rare spirit of dogged perseverance seldom seen in the corporate world these days. I’m no corporate guru to tell you if that is actually good, especially in this case.
Over the past year or so the Canadian firm that once used to lord of large swathes of a nascent smartphone world morphed into a services firm catering primarily to an enterprise audience. Its devices, though good, found themselves out of place in a world where consumers were more bothered about convenience than security. BlackBerry is still the most secure phone, as Angela Merkel and Barack Obama will tell you. It is also immensely durable and has a keyboard that is more intelligent than some smartphone companies itself. But it’s a bit like the old monk under the banyan tree, so full of knowledge and experience but still lost in the present day.
Given the state of the company’s once robust device business I wouldn’t have been surprised if the company just switched off its smartphone segment completely. But having observed the company closely for many years, I am strangely not surprised that Waterloo announced another phone and hinted at more waiting in the wings.
The DTEK50, at least on paper, is a decent phone with a $299 price that does not seem out of place. In fact, this price point is where most of the action is in at the moment. So there is promise of volume. But is there enough here to keep a company like BlackBerry interested for more quarters to come? Remember, the smartphone market, especially in growth markets like India and China, is so competitive that even giants like Apple and Samsung can’t afford to take of their thinking caps.
BlackBerry’s biggest opportunity, and challenge, is triggering mass adoption of these secure devices in the enterprise segment. But we can’t be really optimistic about this possibility given that it has not been able to do this with better phones over the past few quarters. We can’t really blame the smartphone maker for this. It is more to do with enterprises realising that trying to secure large number of employees and their devices is a futile exercise. It’s much easier to just live with the threat that something could go wrong. It helps that not many in most enterprises are privy to information that really matters to anyone.
Meanwhile, BlackBerry might do well to concentrate more on its IoT segment. It’s already making inroads here with QNX platform, bringing together everything from smart cars to dumb kettles. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to let go of somethings and move on. I write this with a quiet optimism that BlackBerry will prove me wrong.