Thursday, October 17, 2013

That’s OK BlackBerry!

10/17/2013 03:50:00 AM

That’s OK BlackBerry. That market has changed and moved on.

In the Open Letter from BlackBerry to its customers, it says "these are no doubt challenging times for us and we don't underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges we are facing...there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That's OK."

I have nothing against BlackBerry back then or today. It’s a fine product in the past and probably today too. However, from a forward looking business strategy perspective, I say it’s not so OK for BlackBerry. And what’s not so OK is that the Market has moved on and BlackBerry is still, unfortunately, hanging on its old element as shown in the open letter. As a company it has not adapted to the new market paradigm.

It is the challenge of the need to adapt to the Market that’s worth writing about. BlackBerry, unfortunately is only a case study for this topic.

Years ago when there were not much competition from the high end smartphone market, ie, before the age of iPhone and Android, BlackBerry was virtually the only option. It was “The Symbol” of elite status to hold a BlackBerry. It was not just affordability but also executive status of “it’s my company’s phone”. The market, back then, was basically an “Executive Gadget” market. I bet large percentage of their corporate customers brought the phone for reinforcing their success status rather than wanting the security email service offered by BlackBerry product.

Fast forward to today. People wanted the latest cool phone as a “personal device”. People are not longing for a company subsided phone (or shall we say they don’t mind to have a company phone but they cannot afford to wait any longer) but wanting to catch up with the market to own an iPhone or Android. And they use the phone for personal matters a lot more than for their job. As to Secure Email service, nobody refuse of such good service but it’s just NOT the consumer’s requirement but just a demand from their employer to project company’s information from leaking. Also, I believe that, given today’s technology, one can create a reasonable secure App in iPhone and Android to replace a large part of the BlackBerry’s secure email service.

In simple terms, the smartphone market has grown beyond the Corporate Market to a much bigger consumer market but BlackBerry did not see it coming, even with all the evident showcased by rival iPhone, BlackBerry still did not react quickly enough.

One can argue that a product needs to find its niche and differentiation to justify why “BlackBerry is not for everyone” but I say it’s not ok. “Not OK” being that BlackBerry as a company had a chance to expand its product from a much larger market. It’s not ok for BlackBerry as a company to hold on to a large pile of cash only to be eroded over time. As a listed company they need to grow their business and it’s not ok to not to have a phone for everyone.

In the case of smartphone market newly defined by iPhone and Android, it’s particularly challenging because the market change is so subtle. The line between the “Business Professional” and “Personal Consumer” market is so burry these days that we invent a new terms “BYOD” to  discuss and debate how we can handle the new paradigm. It’s easy to miss and yet it’s very hard to adapt to it as most products are designed for either the professional or the consumer, seldom for both.

Screencap of BlackBerry's Open Letter
We have witnessed so many companies come and go that I have nothing specifically against BlackBerry’s executives. They are probably aware of what I am saying and wanted to change. Unfortunately the crude fact is that we have not seen a successful strategy from BlackBerry yet. Emphasizing their pile of cash and legacy advantage does not help much for convincing investor that they are back to growth path. For now, the only thing I can do, as a person has no link to BlackBerry product or company, is to wait for their next interesting product and a right moment to buy their stock at best.

Reference: Link to BlackBerry's message