The first BlackBerry device was a two-way pager launched in 1999. Over the subsequent five years, BlackBerry Limited (previously known as Research In Motion) created, and dominated, a new product category by doing one thing very well; allowing business people to send and receive email anytime and anywhere.
Since their debut in the late 1990s, BlackBerry devices have evolved considerably. At first they operated over independent data networks and provided no telephone functions at all. Over time, the devices evolved in response to new technologies and competitive pressures to use data channels on phone networks and provide voice functions. As a result, they earned a position in the smartphone category, where they are now facing stiff competition from the likes of Apple and Samsung. As the devices evolved, BlackBerry Enterprise Server also developed from just being a store-and-forward hub to also being a full-blown mobile device management platform.
While BlackBerry Limited has grown impressively in the enterprise market by offering productivity tools, it was recently blind sided by the trend towards consumerisation, and the new set of competitors coming from the consumer market. For several months, rumors circulated about a buyout. But now BlackBerry has hired former Sybase CEO John Chen to turn things around.
IT directors are understandably cautious about BlackBerry. In the last year, the company has taken a big hit, losing almost a billion dollars in unsold phones. But BlackBerry Limited still has what it takes to turn things around - and ruling out their products would be a mistake.
I don’t recommend that companies who are not currently using BlackBerry switch to BlackBerry. And I caution companies who are currently using nothing and are selecting mobile platforms for the first time to factor in the risk of starting off with a dependency on a vendor whose future is uncertain. But I would recommend to those CIOs who are currently using BlackBerry as a mobile platform to stay with what they have. Here are three good reasons for sticking with BlackBerry:
Reason 1: BlackBerry Enterprise Server is a solid and secure platform for device management.
Reason 2: BlackBerry has always focused on serving the enterprise and prosumer markets, and will continue to do so. Compare this to Samsung or Apple, who view the enterprise and prosumer markets as secondary to the much bigger consumer market. This difference in positioning explains why BlackBerry devices continue to be the most secure handhelds for enterprise users.
Reason 3: John Chen, the turnaround CEO who pulled Sybase out of a similar situation 15 years ago, will do the same for BlackBerry. Sybase was taking a beating from Oracle and Microsoft in the competitive relational database management system market. They had great products (even Microsoft’s MS SQL Server was based on the source code from Sybase’s Adaptive Server Enterprise); and they were innovative. But they were outmanoeuvred by the superior marketing of their competitors.
John Chen got them out of that rut and turned Sybase into the market-leading vendor of platforms for developing and deploying mobile apps for the enterprise. Sybase was bought be SAP two years ago, and the original Sybase products are still successful.
You can expect Chen to do with BlackBerry what he did with Sybase - quietly maintain a focus on enterprise customers and develop products that enhance workforce productivity.