Can BlackBerry 10 claw it back in the enterprise?

By James Bourne | Enterprise Apps Tech

The launch of BlackBerry 10 had been a long time coming. After missing various deadlines – including the lucrative Christmas market last year – the launch of BB10 became arguably the big tech event of early 2013.

A mixture of hope and expectation reigned as Thorsten Heins unveiled the new OS on January 30, but the overriding sentiment was clear: this product needs to be successful. Forrester blogged “Beautiful devices – but is it too late?”, whilst Informa principal telecoms analyst Malik Saadi said that “without a doubt…needs to seduce business users and advanced consumers”.

Yet the question remains: where should BlackBerry focus its efforts? The enterprise sector – for which success came freely in the past but BYOD is gradually stopping – or the consumer market?

Enterprise or consumer?

Dan Zeck, CTO of enterprise mobile provider Antenna Software, believes that BlackBerry should target a mix of the two – the ‘prosumer’.

“It’s the person who wants to run a single device,” Zeck tells Enterprise AppsTech. “Our phones are personal devices – they’re alarm clocks, they have pictures of our family, they contain personal address info – so they really are personal devices, but we also use it for work every day.

“I think the professional consumer is really what they should be targeting, and I think they’re going to have success with that.”

BlackBerry debuted two devices at the BB10 worldwide launch; the traditional QWERTY keyboard Q10, and the sleek touchscreen Z10. Whilst not the first time BlackBerry has made a phone of this type, it’s certainly an interesting development.

Is the Z10 a consumer play? Possibly, yet Zeck was keen to stress how important the Q10 will be to some users. “People still like to have the QWERTY keyboard, that physical touch,” he says. “There are a lot of people who still use SMS and email, who can type faster on a physical keyboard.”

One of the cornerstone features of the new BlackBerry is BlackBerry Balance, a tool which separates work and personal content.

Evidently an enterprise-oriented feature, Zeck called it “a really strong play”, and also mentioned that removing the middleware BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) was also a plus.

“In the past, if you look at BB business, companies used to buy the device and hand them to their employees and say ‘here’s your phone for work’, and they’d have strong security on it and manage the policy, getting access to the corporate directory, calendar, email systems,” says Zeck.

“You had to have a BES, and you had to pay for that, license it, but Balance certainly creates a good separation and you can use ActiveSync, so that’s a nice change for the enterprise,” he adds.

As for the operating system itself, Zeck also gave it the thumbs up. “I was impressed with it. The user experience you have to get used to, but it works very well.”

Is it a battle for third in the OS race?

Of course, with reviews coming in left right and centre for BB10, it’s easy to get carried away. The battle this year, according to analysts, will be between BlackBerry and Windows Phone for third place in the OS ecosystem, behind Android and Apple. David Akka, UK managing director at Magic Software, said that BlackBerry will “take the fight to Microsoft” with this release.

Android of course continues to dominate, with 1.3m Droid devices activated per day, but can BlackBerry compete for the top?

Ovum prinicipal analyst Adam Leach, after the BB10 launch, said: “Despite a well-designed BlackBerry 10 platform that will certainly attract short-term interest from existing users, the company will struggle to appeal to a wider audience, and in the long term will become a niche player in the smartphone market.”

It’s a view Zeck somewhat agrees with, noting the importance of the overall ecosystem.

“The ecosystem is a key part of the whole story,” Zeck says, “Apple’s got their own image, and Android’s got a very strong Google backing. I think the ecosystem of both Microsoft and BlackBerry has to be beefed up substantially.

“[BlackBerry] certainly has a challenge catching up, but I think they’re going to make back a pretty decent share.”  

Zeck also points out the difference in hardware, saying: “How many hardware manufacturers are actually going to use the BB10 operating system? There’s only one right now – and how many vendors are building Windows Phones? Quite a few.

“On that merit alone you would think Windows Phone would have a larger market share, but the ecosystem’s still very important.”

What’s in a name?

One of the more surprising elements of the announcement was a change of company name. Research in Motion is dead; long live BlackBerry. Zeck welcomes the name change, but thinks it’s come too late.

“In the past, the RIM brand had some credence, but when they became BlackBerry devices, I think that was time to change the name – but they didn’t,” says Zeck, adding: “[When] most companies change their names like that, it’s a sign of other events going on.

“I think the CEO’s definitely making a conscious effort to say ‘the culture’s different’, we’re a different company, we’re a new brand.’”

So with all that in mind, does Zeck think the OS launch going to bring BB back in the enterprise?

“It’s going to have a good result. I don’t think it’s going to have the immediate result they’d want, but it’s an immense challenge,” he says.

“I think they have a lot of the right ingredients to make the recipe really good, but they’ve got to get the ecosystem bigger, they’ve got to get more apps, they’ve got to have more developers, and they’ve got to just get back into the enterprise.

“I don’t think the consumer play is going to work alone for them. I think the prosumer effect is going to be there.”

How do you think BlackBerry and Windows’ releases will play out this year?

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