Over the weekend, BlackBerry announced that it was rationalising its product line, sacking thousands of staff and concentrating on enterprise and business customers rather than a mass consumer offering. That’s a sensible strategy, but it will require some immediate product changes. Here are five issues it needs to resolve.
CEO Thorsten Heins explained the strategy in a press release which also foreshadowed bigger than expected losses and the retrenchment of 4500 employees:
Going forward, we plan to refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user. This puts us squarely on target with the customers that helped build BlackBerry into the leading brand today for enterprise security, manageability and reliability.
You might argue that this would have been a sensible strategy for BlackBerry all along; one of the reasons for its early success was the ability for IT departments to control and secure devices. However, rather than indulge in “what if” speculation, these are the five things that I think BlackBerry needs to address right now, given that this is its strategy going forward.
Place a heavy emphasis on its MDM credentials Amongst a series of lower-than-anticipated numbers, one figure in BlackBerry’s announcement did provide a glimmer of hope: installations of the current version of BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which can manage Android and iOS as well as BlackBerry devices, are on the rise, growing from 19,000 in July this year to 25,000 today. BlackBerry certainly doesn’t have this field to itself, but its brand is better-known than many of its rivals.
Emphasise that you don’t need a special phone plan to use a BlackBerry Having said that, as a BlackBerry user, the most common misconception I run into is that you can’t use a BlackBerry without support for BES or BIS as part of your phone plan. With BB10, that isn’t the case; any SIM with data will work fine. That needs to be made clearer.
Fix the BB10 desktop software Integrating BB10 with a desktop Outlook installation is much harder than it was under BB7. The first version of the BB10 Desktop couldn’t even sync contacts from Outlook; the current release can, but only as a one-time activity.
Sort out BBM Last week, BlackBerry announced the release of its iOS and Android BBM clients, but then was forced to pull them after demand overwhelmed its server. BBM isn’t necessarily a key attraction for enterprise users, but the messy rollout doesn’t inspire confidence.
Make sure Priority Hub works BB10.2 will include ‘Priority Hub’, which automatically highlights your most important messages from all sources. If that works well, it could be a big time saver. But if it’s ineffective or requires too much training, it might come off as another own goal.
I’m heading to the BlackBerry Jam developer event in Hong Kong later this week. It will be interesting to see how the new message is translated for a developer audience. An enterprise-centric system doesn’t need hundreds of games, but it still needs the right apps.