Berry Mojo: The comeback of BlackBerry

Through the late 2000s and early 2010s, a BlackBerry handset in your hand would automatically place you in the figurative ‘elite’ in most people’s eyes. . Their massive fame became their massive fault-the brilliant performance of their products blinded them from the incoming threat – Apple’s iOS powered smartphones served the brand-loyal, rich clientele, while Google’s Android platform became available to all manufacturers, offering cheaper and sometimes even better alternatives. The entire market was catered to, and by 2016, BlackBerry had nearly faded out.

The Berry falls

2009 was BlackBerry’s peak- it dominated the US market with a 42.6% market share. Apple held 24.1% while Google held 2.5% of the US market share.

Fast forward four years to 2012, Google commanded 52%, Apple held 35% and BlackBerry had a feeble 7% of the US market share.

In 2003, the co-founder and then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis commented “Camera phones will be rejected by corporate users”, and it wasn’t until 2006 that the first BlackBerry camera phone- the BlackBerry Pearl 8100- was introduced. This attests to how blind the company was to the evolving technology and preferences. They rested heavily on their belief that the business they were in was impenetrable- Ex co-CEO Jim Balsillie said in an interview in February 2007, a month after the iPhone’s debut-

“It’s kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers … But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it.”

(Source:https://www.reuters.com/article/us-rim-iphone/rim-co-ceo-doesnt-see-threat-from-apples-iphone-idUSN1236561320070212)

-showing that they were blind to what Apple had released; Steve Jobs had done to phones what Starbucks had done with coffee- taken a common commodity and tweaked and transformed it to sell it at a premium. Jim Balsillie and all those who were of the same belief as him were proved wrong as BB Merah Putij, TCL Communications and Optiemus Infracom took over the designing, manufacture and marketing of BlackBerry phones under a license on the 28th of September, 2016.

Old recipe, new brew

While making phones with appeal might have been a not-so-successful venture, BlackBerry’s core strength had always been cybersecurity. When current CEO John Chen took over, he focused on that. BlackBerry’s shift to a software and service company under Chen has been a fairly successful venture. 

In an interview with THE WEEK, Chen said-

“Our vision is to have a connected world in which you are safe and your data is yours and to be the world’s leading provider of the most trusted endpoint connectivity technologies. We provide a trusted foundation for the internet of things.”

(Source : https://www.theweek.in/theweek/business/2019/12/17/berry-active.html )

With companies now focusing on ways to connect and secure the world and the key differentiating factor becoming the software, BlackBerry’s vision spells brighter years. The company is drawing on its command on secure communications- drawn from years of history and experience in the field- to place itself at the frontlines of global cybersecurity. It recently acquired Cylance in an all-cash deal to boost its cybersecurity business and launched BlackBerry Persona which securely connects over 500 million endpoints including 150 million cars, drones, smart-devices to industrial devices and even the international space station.

(Source : https://www.blackberry.com/us/en/company/overview)

With connectivity increasing at exponential rates, the connected endpoints also increase, right along with the arena for attack, posing a risk which is unmanageable by people. This is where AI, automation and machine learning step in. However, a lot of the times the larger threats are not from cyber-attackers- it’s often inadvertent actions of people within an organization. Experience drawn from Blackberry’s heritage in security comes in here.

On the 5th of August 2019, BlackBerry launched the AI powered BlackBerry Intelligent Security that dynamically adapts and builds trust scores based upon various factors. In the words of Bryan Palma, President and COO, BlackBerry-

“The increasing velocity and complexity of threats render traditional security models incapable of fully satisfying critical requirements. BlackBerry Intelligent Security’s real-world context, machine learning and predictive analytics set a new standard for a zero trust environment – bringing a new level of sophistication to all industries where security is essential.”

Bottomline

BlackBerry has hit highs as high as clouds, and it might’ve seen that rock-bottoms also have basements.

(Source : https://www.theweek.in/theweek/business/2019/12/17/berry-active.html )

However rough their journey might’ve been, they are certainly set to become a global phenomenon once again, by not making the mistake of the past, a mistake that cost Kodak, Polaroid and Blockbuster their business. Blackberry is making the shift-they’re getting there mojo back.

-Devangee Halder

SY B.Sc. Economics

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