Two years ago, while working for a tech magazine, I wrote a piece suggesting three options for BlackBerry, which was then at the top of a hill but looking down. I said the best option would be for BlackBerry to become a software company. But the suggestion was too speculative for the story to be published anywhere. A couple of weeks back, BlackBerry India MD Sunil Lalvani said something that, for me, was like poetic justice—the Canadian smartphone maker had earned 63% of its revenues in Q4-2013 from software.
The fortunes of what was once the top smartphone maker have been due for a turnaround some time now. The company’s downfall in many ways has been accentuated by the not-so-impressive show of its latest BB10 devices on which they were banking a bit too much. The operating system is one of the best available for smartphones, but its problem is the lack of the kind of apps that people want to have on their phones. Numbers is not the issue here, but the absence of the most downloaded apps from the other operating systems is.
It is ironical that apps should be the problem area for a company that has excelled in smartphone apps for so long. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is still one of the best messaging platforms out there. So much so that opening up its best app has only worked to BlackBerry’s advantage. It seems the success of BBM on other platforms has given Waterloo enough confidence to take its services to other platforms. So its enterprise software now lets people access BlackBerry’s secure and encrypted service even on Android and iOS devices. Any device can now be a BlackBerry device and this enterprise service will be a compartment separated from the rest of the device. CTOs seem to be lapping up the feature, which finally lets them secure the smart devices that are preferred by their employees and increasingly being paid for by them.
“We have added 30,000 BES 10 servers in the year since its launch and we have BES 12 on the anvil,” says Lalvani, highlighting that they are certainly not out. But there are many players trying to secure Android and iOS for large enterprises, among them Samsung which is pushing its Knox that tries to do the same thing as BlackBerry.
According to Gartner, the spend on enterprise software will total $320 billion in 2014, a 6.9%