It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. With that in mind it will do well for those about to read this at length to understand the global factors that surround the smart phone market. While they are numerous and can be debated from many angles I want to start with the vital American market and how fickle the perception of its consumers really is–and why this perception has forced BlackBerry to cut and splice its own DNA for the sake of survival. The underdog story for Canada’s top tech company is far from over.
In a turnabout bid such as BlackBerry 10, it requires BlackBerry LTD to return from its self-imposed sabbatical and deliver something fresh that has the power to change that aforementioned-fickle consumer mindset. Many BlackBerry lovers and haters expected the Z10 and Q10 to be the driving force of that delivery. Let me correct your misconceptions.
The recent hardware launches from BlackBerry in 2013 were really remnants from an ongoing transition- the Z10 itself was designed nearly 2 years ago in early 2011, these phones were intended to be loaded with a derivative version of PlayBook OS tailored for the smaller screened handsets. The old CEOs had every intention of bringing the PlayBook experience to the phones. Under new management Thorsten Heins made the call that their software platform needed to be totally rebuilt from the ground up. Riding the software growth of the failed PlayBook OS was not going to help them deliver their perception changing rebound.
I liken the tale of Research in Motions’ BlackBerry to that of the Greek mythology.
Once King of Corinth, Sisyphus, punished for chronic deceitfulness forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action for an eternity. BlackBerry representing Sisyphus, and the boulder in question, the coaxed perception of the markets to which BlackBerry serves–an endless quest for approbation in a world that has left BlackBerry to bleed out slowly for the last 5 years, and loved watching every minute of it.
BlackBerry right now owns the most mature operating system architecture–backed by the oldest and most reliable, trusted real time system on the planet. QNX is years older than both Windows 1 and even Apple Lisa—but QuantumUNIX was designed from conception with the purpose of being the first fault tolerant OS, one that would run without fail. A design purpose they have achieved in numerous markets for the last 31 years. The new software core at BlackBerry is one of the best in the business. It finds its success outside the mainstream consumer market. Embedded in the world around us; automotive telematics and infotainment (upward of 300+ millions vehicles host a QNX embedded chip), ATM machines, slot machines, cardiac monitors, surgical equipment, LASIK eye surgery(I mean hey, it’s just reshaping your cornea). There are systems running QNX to this day that have been in operation nonstop without fail for 20+ years. The road ahead is much more cohesive than the media gives their time and attention to understand.
BlackBerry and QNX is a match made by matter. QNX sought out BlackBerry due to competition issues from Harman International selling [QNX] software more to competitors than their own customers—the demand for QNX software is huge for the embedded wraith. The microkernel has been put into use in so many places that they each deserve their own articles. I compare the competition this way: Windows Embedded is great for touch screen soda dispensers–but QNX is what you’d use when building the International Space Station.
BlackBerry remains the greatest tech company in Canada. QNX taking up the mast with BlackBerry may not be so much about Lazaridis’ realization that the Research in Motion camp was already wounded before 2010 (when the sale and purchase of QNX was actually made), but more about a national commitment to changing the way we communicate at least one more time. QNX could have knocked in California—or Korea—or Redmington. But they knocked in Waterloo.
Problem is no one gives two shits what runs nuclear control modules for GE, 65% of the embedded chips within our automobiles or even what protects our astronauts from disasters like the Columbia in 2003. No one gives two-cents about BlackBerrys dedication to enterprise grade security for all. No one gives any commendation to BlackBerry for being the only company that NSA could not breach the back-door of. Or how BlackBerry is working with companies like Mozilla on re-securing the internet for all of us who take it for granted. Our ignorance is the boulder–the perception breaking BlackBerry day by day, a boulder they carry regardless as if facing an eternal punishment for all their innovations. Let’s be frank, we saw the ‘App Grid’ as early as 2002 from BlackBerry a concept regurgitated by Apple for touch displays and everyone hails it a miracle in technology.
While at the same time BlackBerry was the one innovating mobile data, allowing the carriers to take on more subscribers while still manage the rising data influx through use of BlackBerrys global network operating centers; coupled with high grade encryption and compression it was a godsend for carriers around the globe still in the process of rolling out their cellular infrastructures allowing them to service enterprise customers.
Lest we forget the early days of the iPhone and AT&T…Now, in the days of LTE no one gives a shit about compression or security, consumers want it and we want it now, why isn’t it here already?
To survive BlackBerry has totally overhauled its operations, intent, and delivery mechanisms internally. Inside it feels like a startup, managers allocating their own resources pitching timeframes and action ability on real ideas (most of which are crowd funded by a spectacular amount of user feedback). Implementing and moving on to the next project, building at a pace unseen in this industry. What the crew up in Waterloo and the globe has achieved in just 2 years speaks not only to the power of their platform but their dedication to its success in the marketplace. They know that inside BlackBerry if they do their jobs and keep moving that they will redefine mobile. The focus is breaking critical mass, Frank Boulben Chief Marketing Officer is very brand aware, he’s also sensitive to the amount of brand loyalty there still is around the world–and that the brand is still relevant to old users even if they’ve moved onto new handsets. Touch more on this after/
A trend we saw take off in Canada will soon cross the oceans around the world as the rollout of LTE continues and we push the OTA potential of mobile data. The trend is twofold: deeper commoditization of smartphones coupled with the end of multi-year contracts from the carriers. What has brought us here is the battle between the leaders Google/Samsung and Apple; their move into a space BlackBerry created burst a bubble and eroded a lot of BlackBerrys niche value accrued from 2002-2005. Apple has those years as well but they are also about to face a major fork.
Samsung is combating Apple, (and the consumer clutch they have garnered in the North American market) by doing everything Apple refuses(d) to. Affordable handsets for every tier backed by an Open Source OS (Android) the only reputable software package to combat the app catalog assimilated by the closed Cupertino. This also hurts BlackBerry as they are facing stiffer competition from lower priced Android handsets in emerging markets.
The iPhone and the BlackBerry won it big for two reasons in their hayday- innovation and national interest. A North American company inventing something as revolutionary as the smartphone is on par with USAs race to the moon in ’69. We are intrinsically prideful creatures we believe once we have a true hit we don’t have to try anymore—and that leads to complacency. That’s what slowly drowned BlackBerry and is eerily similar to the hetpa-flipthishouse Apple has gone through with its own operating system. A perception competition has fostered and innovation has led. History repeats itself, if not always in the most clear cut of ways.
At this stage $BBRY needs partners to bring BlackBerry 10 to a larger audience and when I say BlackBerry 10 I mean QNX. Sure, BlackBerry may need a hardware partner if they wanted to build a low-low end device for emerging markets. But BlackBerrys secure network infrastructure and much more prominent brand name (which is far from damaged everywhere) are both necessary to take the OS out from the shadows of your reality and into the palm of your hands. What this means in broader terms is that BlackBerry will begin making more and more critical aspects of your life a part of their platform–by making various endpoints accessory to your mobile handset. BlackBerry isn’t looking for an outright buyer or single joint venture. BlackBerry needs a partner for each vertical market they wish to enter with new innovative value propositions. As they’ve done internally by reinventing their BES software and mobile platform/ecosystem.
The epicaricacy from the media, especially in the US, has pushed BlackBerry to an outlier position. Many either haven’t held a BlackBerry since 2010 or summed up their opinions of BlackBerry 10 after a few hours hands on. The amount of uneducated articles rejecting the platform for shortcomings, ignoring the fantastic advancements of its core competencies seem to have no end–egoist editors seem revel in their pseudo power-as if their blog posts and brash comments could stop the then 2.8 billion dollar cash giant that was Research in Motion. BlackBerry LTD. today nearly a year and half later, has even more cash on hand and still zero debt. This isn’t Apple or Nokia we’re talking about.
So the writers kept at it, hoping they could send BlackBerry the way of Palm. BlackBerry responded with silence. And for another year they drilled away building the latter half of their new platform–building the key to open the doors to their future. When reiterated plans for strategic exploration in this second part of Heins 3 part transition hit the net, the media simply regurgitated the first paragraph of the press release, with no sense of the potentials the exploration will yield for BlackBerry. Everyone is expecting names like Sony or Microsoft to come to the aide of BlackBerry but you must think vertical for the big picture. Think Dell, Cisco, Nantworks, Lockheed Martin; if your parochial naiveté or prejudice has you superficially writing BlackBerry obituary you’re in for a wildly rude awakening. The underdog story for BlackBerry is at its tail end, and while everyone has been looking somewhere else glamorized by mobile games and endless crappalogs, BlackBerry has been silently at work building a secure platform that will allow them full autonomy in many of the fastest growing markets in the world. BB has superior technology, unlike Palm their software platform is necessitous, in place as multiple cogs keeping our global digital age in motion.
The end is never ‘The End” BlackBerry has unique value, running systems we rely on everyday. The dammed internet is in part run by BlackBerry software! *See Cisco High Capacity Routers in use for sites like Twitter, YouTube and many others* This inherent value will be expanded upon as the interconnectedness of all our electronic devices comes into question, as will the security of those connections, which is what makes BlackBerry such a powerful contender even outside the consumer scope. There are more eyes on BlackBerry than ever, it comes down to who will come to the table, and share in the goodwill. It’s about building back a name you can trust. Steve Jobs was one of those egoists I touched on earlier. In 2010 he had this to say about BlackBerry, and while he made this statement BlackBerry was out acquiring QNX and transitioning toward a new software and services based platform (&Lest we forget their last platform (Java based BBOS) has been a platform that’s scaled for them from 1999 into late 2013)
“We’ve now passed RIM, and I don’t see them catching up to us in the near future. They must move beyond their area of strength and comfort into the unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software platform company.”
Steve Jobs, 2010
Well Stevey its 2013 and BlackBerry is near the end of doing just that. Despite what anyone has realistically forseen BlackBerry has forsaken becoming another Android OEM because the massive potential they hold very close to the chest in Waterloo is about to be revealed, and you can bet that no matter the course: Privatization, Sale, Joint Venture, Merger—BlackBerrys work and innovation over the last decade will not be forgotten, as it’s laid the foundation of all we know in the mobile arena. A resilient empire that reminds us the deep value and loyalty many still have with the brand. The ladies and gentleman working relentlessly to ensure the success of this platform deserve every ounce of respect for their innovations and overcoming the challenges of this industry. Their efforts will serve to redefine ‘BlackBerry’ the world over. BlackBerry 10 is not late, it’s early.
Big thanks out to @KevCollazo for the wonderful handmade Iceberg graphic
(that he drew on his Z10)