BlackBerry hosted last week three simultaneous meetings to introduce their latest phone, the Passport. I was lucky to be among the privileged that were invited and wanted to share my feelings on this event and on the new device.
After a few days of use, I have grown really found of the phone. The enhanced width makes reading far easier than “normal” shaped phones. I installed on it my subscription to the Economist and found reading on it natural and easy. The phone is now running the 10.3 version of their OS which among others give user access to two application catalogues: the Blackberry world and the Amazon apps marketplace. Installing apps and managing is easy and intuitive.
BlackBerry’s classic keyboard benefits from a few enhancements. It offers predictive typing and most important, it acts as a PC Trackpad. After a few tentative tries, usage becomes natural and intuitive. Like many in the Tech World, I did not read any documentation and felt I did not needed one.
The device is thin, nice looking with smooth rubbery covers. It boasts an impressive 30 hours usage time which I have not tested but which as a power user I know I will find really useful.
I use a few phones and as a whole, while the Passport I was given (I said privileged earlier, did not I ?) has a qwerty keyboard and I am used to the French azerty, this device is a winner which I am definitely going to use. German readers can have a look at Volker Weber (here pictured with me) whose review is as always precise, factual and entertaining: http://vowe.net/archives/014578.html.
After all the challenges BlackBerry went through, it was very positive to hear the following day that they announced quarterly earnings with a smaller than expected loss. This was another sign of the on-going turnaround led by John Chen and his team. Were all things perfect then ?
Two things surprised me:
1) We were shown marketing videos positioning BlackBerry phones used by people who “work all the time”. This is smart marketing. It positions BlackBerry as an enterprise player and not a consumer player. It says our phones are used by successful workaholics, not poets. It is good positioning as it reveals their main target audience.
This was however underplayed and the presentation was too much paralleled on Apple’s ones: a lot of insistence on design – not that it should not matter – and even one presenter using the Columbo inspired One more thing to present BlackBerry Blend which links BBM and extend BlackBerry security features to personal devices (a feature which I have to install but which makes tons of sense).
I would really recommend that BlackBerry exploits this workaholic positioning and uses it at most. Marketing is key and not only for companies catering to consumers and BlackBerry has a real idea there.
2) To the best of my understanding, 2/3 of BlackBerry’s revenue comes from its Enterprise Server. This is a very strong product that has probably more than 50% of market share and wins over its competitors by strong security and resilience features. Furthermore, recent developments have made these features available to Android and IOS devices which should make of this product a winner.
However, not enough care is made these capabilities and this Server product known to general audiences.
I visited while in London one of our customer and visited the director of a worldwide production team of more than 300 who was not aware of these capabilities. To him, BlackBerry is associated just with devices and associated software. So he had ruled applicability of this Enterprise Server out.
He is not alone and BlackBerry should ensure that the strong position they have on the corporate mobile enterprise Server world is made loud and clear.
So this is a very positive move. While BlackBerry has challenges ahead of themselves. The combination of enterprise offerings should strengthen their position and as the saying goes, they have a plan.