The New BlackBerryZ10…. Consumer Friendly, Enterprise Approved...But Does It Matter?
With the Z10 BlackBerry (don't call me RIM) has a smartphone that stands up to the leaders of the pack - Samsung's Galaxy SIII, Apple's iPhone 5 and, for good measure, Nokia's Lumia 920. BlackBerry now finally has a capable touch-centric device that has been missing from its arsenal since, well, forever. But what does this mean for the future of the company? Is BlackBerry now in position to reclaim some of its lost share (see figure) or at least stem the tide? Put another way, does the market need a strong third option and, if yes, will it be BlackBerry or Windows?
Looking at the Z10 a little closer there are several features and capabilities that stand out and will be valuable to the enterprise and individual consumers. Some of these include:
- In Balance they have one of the most seamless sandboxing tools available to address the separation of personal from enterprise content including distinct and
password-protected calendars, address books, wallpaper and collections of app
- Multi-tasking on the Z10 appears seamless and intuitive
- BBM has been a huge part of BlackBerry's success and popularity and the screen sharing, video chat functionality integrated into BBM will be significant. BB now has video capabilities on par with Skype and Facetime, although this feature does not translate to legacy platforms.
- Although the official release date remains undetermined, the Q10 represents the version with BB's iconic keyboard. It is unfortunate that the Z10 and Q10 will not be released together as the hard keyboard still represents a strong differentiator for BB. However, the most glaring hole for BB to fill was clearly the full touchscreen solution.
- Integrated inbox "Hub" for easy access and storage of email, notifications, messages, etc. In addition the "Peek" and "Flow" functions offer unique navigation controls that allow you to peek into applications without fully opening them and also seamlessly flow from task to task.
- One of the biggest issues with BB devices in the past has been their woeful browser. The Z10 browser is up to standard and includes Flash support a private browsing function and very strong HTML5 support.
- Other notables include HDMI and NFC integration, some advanced photo editing options (although we really don't see much utility for this) and gesture-based navigation.
One the flipside, there are some notable misses:
- As previously mentioned we think the later release date of the Q10 is a miss.
- The mapping application - one of the benchmark features of high-end smartphones - is rudimentary with limited detail and functionality
- Lack of a cloud storage service. While this is something that can be easily addressed, it is a feature that users (consumers) are increasingly looking for
- The obvious one is the limited app eco-system. While we will argue that 90+% of available apps on competitive platforms have little or no value, there are some key ones missing including Netflix and various airline and banking apps. Given limited resources, what many developers will do is develop native apps for only Android and/or iOS and leverage HTML5 for BlackBerry. BlackBerry will really need to be proactive here driving application development and creating momentum. What would have been an exciting game changer is support for Android apps on BB10.
- The market lacks a really strong integrated speech recognition solution and BB10 does not fill that void. Similar to other solutions on the market the BB10 speech application is solution generally slow and inaccurate.
- Another potential issue is the lack of a strong tablet counterpart. Understandably this is not a direct Z10 issue, today everything is about ecosystems - both applications and hardware. While the tablet market is still dominated by the iPad, Android devices are closing the gap. The PlayBook - while a solid piece of hardware - does not fill that void.
The other big announcement from BlackBerry (besides the name 'change') is the launch of BES 10. This is big news for the enterprise. Finally BB has an integrated console to manage BB10, legacy BB and other platforms. Prior to the release of BES 10, enterprises had to use two separate platforms: one to manage PlayBook tablets and iOS and Android devices and one for BB phones. No integrated console existed to provide enterprise managers a single purview. This fragmentation is addressed with BES 10. Additional features include support for secure access to work email, content and secure connectivity to behind the firewall apps - including FIPS 140-2 compliance. In addition, BlackBerry World for Work, a new enterprise app storefront for BB10 smartphones (unclear about support for alternate platforms) and a variety of management controls.
This is clearly a step in the right direction for BlackBerry. However, this is just the beginning of the road for the new BlackBerry with significant hurdles to overcome to regain their customers and market's trust. Moving forward, some of the most critical requirements will include:
1. Sustainable development. BlackBerry does not have the best track record here. While it is barely out of the gate with the new BB10 devices, the company will need to create confidence in the ability to support a life cycle and upgrade schedule that maps to customer requirements. BB10 was a major upgrade and BB needed to get it right. However, missing upgrades by several quarters is not sustainable.
2. Enterprise and government refocus. Clearly consumerization is driving a new dynamic in the market. However, in the process of marketing more to the consumer, BB has all but alienated its core enterprise segments. Account attrition - especially in strong BB segments such as public sector and finance - has been considerable. BB needs to recommit to these customers and appears to be doing so with strong pre launch outreach with the BB10 devices and BES 10. There are some potentially interesting services - especially around mission critical communication integration in the wake of recent public safety developments - that BB can lead.
3. Application development. The answer here may be porting Android applications to run on BB10. Whatever it is, commitment for native application development - both enterprise and consumer is paramount. In addition, we would like to see more leadership on HTML5 coming from BB.