BlackBerry 2013: What's the next move?

by David Krebs | 04/03/2013

BlackBerry recently announced its FY 2012 Q4 results and the details were mostly impressive. Some of the the key metrics included:

  • 6 million smartphones shipped
  • 1 million Z10 smartphones shipped
  • 45-55% of Z10 adopters were previously using another platform
  • BB10 apps reached 100,000
  • Return to profitability
  • Total BB subscribers down to 76 million (from 79 million)

With the exception of the drop in subscribers - which perhaps was not entirely surprising - the numbers were better than most expected. While one quarter does not a trend make, the momentum is increasingly positive for BlackBerry. However, the emphasis at BlackBerry since Heins took the helm has been more about near term tactics - organizational restructuring, ensuring the successful launch of the Z10, returning to profitability - as opposed to longer term strategy. This is not to say that these moves are not critical to paving the path to longer term success - and without them the company may not even be around today - some critical questions are bubbling to the surface.

  • How committed are carriers to BB and the Z10?
  • How is the transition in services impacting the overall business?
  • What is their enterprise industry strategy moving forward? How are they leveraging the BB10 platform to expand into other services and applications (automotive)?
  • What is the traction of enterprise oriented solutions such as Balance and Workspace?

With respect to enterprise opportunities, the competitive landscape has also clearly shifted. We are witnessing a much stronger Android value proposition in the enterprise - especially as Android 4.1 (and later versions) begin to gain critical mass which we expect to occur in late 2013/early 2014. Moreover, Samsung, with its SAFE and KNOX initiatives and the emergence of SE Android solutions, is not shy about going after the tradition BB market.  Moreover, it is what Samsung is doing to enable Android solutions in various vertical markets - from Education to Health care and Retail - that represent the most compelling value add.

The strength of BB - in addition to its best in class wireless email and iconic keyboard - has been its security. This drove the broad adoption of BB devices in both government and highly regulated industries such as financial services and health care. Although still considered a strength for BlackBerry the market has changed considerably over the past couple of years and according to a recent survey conducted by VDC Research among IT decision makers in the US and UK, the impression in the US is that iOS trumps BlackBerry. In the UK, where BB has retained a stronger market share recently, the opposite is true. Other interesting developments is that among decision makers in large enterprise organizations BB is clearly viewed as the superior platform in terms of security and that irrespective of their large market share among consumers, Android still has a lot of growing up to do when it comes to security.


For BlackBerry there is a lot to like and at the same time a lot to be concerned about when evaluating these figures. Clearly security alone is not sufficient for BlackBerry to succeed. It has to appeal to the individual, especially in the context of BYOD influenced enterprise mobility strategy. However, assuming BlackBerry can again develop innovative and exciting mobile devices (a big 'if') the importance of its security IP could again become its trump, especially as a counter to Android's potential in the enterprise. Enterprises are only beginning to provide access to critical enterprise content on BYOD devices. As this evolves - along with BYOD strategies -  the appeal of BB and its outlook should become increasingly positive.