Down but not out: Two companies reveal why they're sticking with BlackBerry

Down but not out: Two companies reveal why they're sticking with BlackBerry

Summary: Three Italian corporates are keeping up with their BlackBerry deployments, despite having investigated what the Apple and Android competition has to offer. What's the appeal?

TOPICS: Mobility, Security, EU
The BlackBerry Q10 with that all important keyboard
The BlackBerry Q10 with that all important keyboard. Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

BlackBerry, the smartphone maker that once dominated the corporate device world, is attempting to stage a comeback. Recently appointed CEO John Chen wants to repeat the miracle he performed in returning the then-struggling Sybase to profitability by helping BlackBerry re-establish its position in the smartphone market.

BlackBerry's Italian subsidiary is undergoing some changes. Alberto Acito, managing director for south-east Europe, left the company in January and has not yet been replaced. There are also rumours of a further reduction in staffing from the current 50 employees to 30, although there has been no official confirmation from the company.

The future of BlackBerry's operations in the country will depend on whether Chen's strategy of refocusing on the secure corporate network business, on new low-cost smartphones (such as the Z3 launched at the MWC trade show last month) and on BlackBerry's iconic Qwerty keyboard, pays off. It's still early to say how the strategy will fare in the long term, but some Italian companies have recently given the company a vote of confidence.

During MWC, BlackBerry announced a number of deals with both new and existing customers; three of them — Air Dolomiti, Banca Ifigest and Tokheim — are Italian. The first is a mid-sized airline company with approximately 550 employees, the second an independent bank based in Florence, while the third is a large gas pump company.

"We've been using BlackBerry's products for almost 10 years," Tokheim manager Corrado Fasano told ZDNet. "At first it was used mainly by managers for sending email, but in time the number of devices has grown and now we have almost 150 of them; all of our technicians that perform maintenance operations at gas stations have been given one."

What is particularly appreciated by Tolkheim managers is the perceived security of BES 10 (BlackBerry middleware that allows devices to access messaging and collaboration software, and synchronises content between enterprise servers and smartphones).

BlackBerrys' physical keyboard is also still perceived as a plus. "We had some complaints from our employees when we switched to the 9900 model, as the touchscreen did not really add value and the devices were less robust and reliable, but we had positive feedback again when the Q5 and Q10 models were introduced," Fasano said.

Ease of use, the keyboard and BES also seem to be factors that convinced Air Dolomiti to migrate their existing BlackBerry devices to new BlackBerry 10 models.

"We tested alternative solutions, both on iOS and Android, but BES was much easier to manage and we also appreciated that it has now added the option to sync devices running other operating systems," the company's ICT director Fabio Biancotto said. "Before, some managers might own an iPhone and you had to set up a separate network for those devices, but now it's no longer necessary."

That BlackBerry shared information with the company, letting staff know about its plans for future developments, was also particularly appreciated. "We were alerted in advance about the introduction of new pricing levels and about the Android compatibility of the new firmware. That helped us to relax and be confident about our partnership," Biancotto said.

Air Dolomiti owns roughly 430 devices, mostly Q5s for the air-side staff that need to stay in touch through email and appreciate a physical keyboard, and Z10s for the managers who need a larger display to view documents and presentations.

"For us the security features are not as important as for, say, a pharmaceutical company," Biancotto said, "We do not deal with sensitive information. But we do appreciate the fact that on our devices it's easy to set up a personal area and keep it separate from your work applications."

Privacy and security nonetheless remain one of BlackBerry's distinctive features, and in a time when hacking and spying are no longer niche concerns but ones that make headlines thanks to Edward Snowden, this could well prove a valuable competitive advantage.

This holds true not only for data storage and traditional email communications, but following Snapchat's data breach and Facebook's WhatsApp acquisition (which boosted concerns about how Zuckerberg's company will manage users data), for instant messaging as well.

Diego Ghidini, business sales director of BlackBerry Italia, recently mentioned a case where an Italian company (which he would not quote by name) had been using BES to protect its email. "They later discovered that a large part of their staff also communicated via instant messaging applications, and that kind of communication was not protected," he said. Such instances provide a good opportunity for BlackBerry to push adoption of its BlackBerry Messenger product for internal use.

BBM is well-known for its safety features — especially the fact that you don't have to share your phone number to communicate, but you are given a personal identification number instead — and it's another legacy asset Chen is trying to exploit to reinvigorate the company.

If Italy's any indication, Chen might want to try to market BBM not only as a private consumer tool, but as an instant messaging platform for businesses as well. Oh, wait a minute...

Read more on BlackBerry

Topics: Mobility, Security, EU

Federico Guerrini

About Federico Guerrini

In the last 12 years Federico has been working as a freelance journalist, at first covering current affairs and economy and then focusing on technology, writing extensively for several Italian national media outlets.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What A Sweet Story ...

    ... But what's the point?

    My brother was deeply in love with Betamax, which at least had better technology on its side; BB has not only lost the battle, it's lost the war.

    The Irtalians would do better to explore the alternatives more carefully, with an eye to the future, and campaign for the bits of BB they feel they can't live without.

    Like it or not, it really is time some people accepted the inevitable, and moved on.

    Bloggers who write articles like this should include a phot of a BB share certificate - not to show 'an interest', but to prove they actually believe what they're writing.
    • It's the right choice

      @Heenan73 have you use the latest BlackBerry? This article was about the latest Blackberry not the old BlackBerry. The new BlackBerries are much better than they were before, they're actually packed with a lot of innovative features that makes using them even easier than ever before. If you have not used the new BlackBerry I would encourage you to try, just try it and you'll see the difference.
      • Don't bother arguing with Meatpuppets.

        Heenan73 has an agenda and it is impossible for you to change his/her mind. His job is to defame competing products and to belittle those who disagree with him/her.
    • Enterprise

      BlackBerry is not going to win in the consumer market. Definitely not in the US, but BlackBerry's business subscriber mix is actually on the rise.

      The Company is turning toward software to make profit. BlackBerry will likely run the hardware part of its business as a low-margin one that will drive its enterprise sales in much the same way as Apple runs its App Store to support iDevice margins.
    • Like many

      Like many you see Blackberry for what hey were, and not what their new product can actually do,Like many you read article written by Ifan and Android Fan, Just what this video made by a Ifan that took a real life challenge to use a Z30 instead of is Iphone for a week, And note that is only complaint,apps is now a nun issue with the latest OS that can run 95% of Androids apps.
    • Please use a BB10 device!

      Judging by what you've written here, you have never used a BB10 device.
      Please familiar yourself with their new line of devices and then decide for yourself!
      Macy John
    • What's the point?

      The point is Blackberry is still going and the article outlines reasons why. Isn't that clear enough?

      The more important question is why does someone take the time writing a post like you just wrote? I don't take the time to write dismissive articles about random companies I think are no longer competitive or interesting. Why would anyone do that? They wouldn't because their is zero incentive.

      They would however do it if they actively sought to slander a company they saw as a threat to another company they prefer or work for.
    • BlackBerry 10 is "Superior" to any other Mobile OS

      I believe you may have BlackBerry confused with RIM.
      BlackBerry 10 is Superior to any other mobile platform to date. You need to use it to understand how far advanced it is. Its ease of use, Inelegant, intuitive, Elegant, Smooth Flowing with a Superior Messaging platform (HUB) that leaves the competition in the dust.

      BlackBerry's BES continue to dominate the industry and keeps growing by the day, with over 80,000 Installations, with 30,000+ being on BES1 0.

      BetaMAX, despite being better than VHS, failed, due to high price. Laser Disk failed due to high price. Comparing these to BlackBerry is far off the mark.

      Chew on this for a bit. John Chen, CEO has vision and is running BBRY with an Iron Fist.

      BlackBerry CEO: We're readying another flagship to win over new customers
      by Roger Cheng February 26, 2014
    • Don't patronize

      Sorry... but you don't decide which technologies a company should use. And you can't tell bloggers what to write either (you condescending little fascist); if you'd require this blogger to include a photo of a share certificate, then you should tell us who pays you to Astroturf competing companies.
  • Nice!

    I am rooting for BB. Happy Z10 owner here. Speaking of which, Verizon just released OS today! :)
  • Great BlackBerry Q10 Picture.

    Oh forgot to mention, its nice to see a site posting images of NEW BlackBerry 10 devices, and not the Older BOLD pictures. Good Stuff.