An Alternate Reality For BlackBerry With Android

A while ago I’d written about the uphill battle that BlackBerry faces in making a comeback. I’d posed an idea that their first success milestone should be returning to their position as the device of choice for organizations - but why stop there?

The more I thought about the idea, the more I started realizing there’s a niche spot in mobile computing right now thats RIM is perfectly positioned to fill. Albeit to do so would require a company of RIM’s size to pivot - something a billion-dollar operation and brand might not be so inclined to do.

The headline: BlackBerry pivots to become the Enterprise solution for Android.

Keep The Hardware

BlackBerry has a long-standing reputation for being high-quality in terms of hardware and engineering; when compared with the iPhone 5, BlackBerry demonstrates that its keenly aware of customer demands for devices - elements such as battery and camera outshine the competition.

The problem with BlackBerry has never been the hardware; its been the experience, but not as much for the user as it was for the developer. Writing apps for BlackBerry was taxing and awkward, and as a result its app ecosystem suffered. Even now, RIM is still trying to compete in the app ecosystem game, which I think is a poor strategy; it plays to its biggest weakness, and ignores its strengths. But does RIM really understand its strengths? A company that has faced as many reorganizations as RIM recently, I’m not convinced it does.

Know Your Brand

Samsung has demonstrated that you can simply be a good electronics manufacturing company and still go toe-to-toe in the smartphone market with the likes of Apple by leveraging a good software platform. For them, Android was a godsend - they’ve never been a software company and it shows even today in their bundled apps and experience. They played to their strengths and they’ve done it extremely well, all while being faithful to their brand: to be a good electronics company.

During my tenure at RIM there was a lot of rumour and debate about the Android player for PlayBook, a lot of criticism about how it impacted the BlackBerry brand. Here’s the cold hard truth: the BlackBerry brand starts and ends with enterprise integration (BES) and messaging (BBM). By comparison, virtually no other feature in the BlackBerry product moves the needle for consumers.

BES and BBM are the strengths that RIM should be leveraging, strengths that are reasonably insulated from the SDK and app ecosystem - strengths that can be refactored to be deployed on other platforms. A venture that is half-complete given the fact that there already exists an Android runtime for QNX!

The Opportunity

BlackBerry has best-in-class security and integration support for organizations. Android has no “industrial-strength” product story, and desperately needs one that isn’t directed by BYOD middleware companies. By adopting Android as the application runtime over QNX and porting over its messaging and integration services, RIM mitigates the app ecosystem advantage of its competitors while capitalizing on its strengths - all this while preserving its brand. It may even strengthen it.