Earlier today, BlackBerry and AT&T announced the launch of a redesigned Passport that would be available exclusively through the carrier. The new Passport – which I have dubbed the Passport R – has rounded edges and a slightly longer chin below the keyboard. It’s a little different, and overall, I think it looks awesome from what I’ve seen in pictures.
The question of whether or not BlackBerry should have done this for AT&T will definitely be up for debate over the next couple of days in the BlackBerry community. Some will see BlackBerry’s decision to give AT&T an exclusive on a completely unique device as a waste of time and resources. Some though, myself included, are on the side that this was the correct decision for all parties involved, and I have a couple of reasons as to why I think this.
While BlackBerry’s presence in the US consumer market is minimal, that only means it can get better. One of the reasons for this drop in consumer acceptance over the years has been the lack of support from carriers – including AT&T. On the flip side, when carriers have actually supported BlackBerry and earned an exclusive, they’ve failed to actually promote the device they were given to your customers (I’m looking at you, Verizon!).
Giving AT&T a super exclusive device – one that literally no one else in the world has – will hopefully be incentive enough to get Ma. Bell off their ass and help BlackBerry out when it comes to marketing and in-store sales.
Aside from the consumer side, giving AT&T this exclusive Passport could also be good for both companies’ enterprise goals.
At this year’s CES, AT&T’s CEO Ralph de la Vega focused a large part of his keynote to talk about what his company is doing in the enterprise, an area he is now overseeing. AT&T services over 4 million business customers around the world, including every Fortune 1000 company – an astonishing number, and one that BlackBerry should be itching to get comfortable with as well.
While the Classic may be enterprise’s top pick and AT&T will also be supporting in going forward, the Passport is perfectly suitable to handle any task a professional throws at it. Don’t be shocked if this exclusive is, behind closed doors, meant to be more than just about a phone for regular people.
This exclusive deal also shows how in touch with reality BlackBerry is. Sure, selling your new products as unlocked smartphones on ShopBlackBerry on day 1 is great, and should be the go-to move for every launch, but carriers are still a major part of the hardware business. According to CEO John Chen, AT&T wasn’t a fan of the original Passport’s design, so BlackBerry went ahead and changed it. We’ll probably never know who gave the idea of redesigning the Passport or if that was even on the table when talking about carrier support, but the fact that BlackBerry went out of their way to redesign a phone for a carrier shows tremendous trust.
BlackBerry had to invest time, money and resources (three things Chen values tremendously) to get this redesigned Passport to AT&T. I firmly believe there’s no way BlackBerry does this without some guarantees from the carrier. Guarantees that AT&T will actually push this phone, for example. Bottom line: Whether it’s to consumers or business users, the Passport R will get exposure from AT&T, and that can only be good for BlackBerry.
Now we just need a date from AT&T for both the Classic and the Passport R. Either way, at first glance BlackBerry’s decision to redesign the Passport for AT&T is a wise choice. Time will tell if it helps in the bottom line though.