The day after BlackBerry

The day after BlackBerry

Summary: What happens after the Waterloo, Ontario-based mobile device company ceases to exist?


I resolved myself not to contribute to the armchair quarterbacking over what will happen to BlackBerry, now that we know that the company's demise is almost a virtual certainty. I wrote quite a number of articles about it in 2011 and 2012, so I really see no need to re-hash the same points over and over again.

What I am much more interested in is what will happen to the mobile industry as a whole when Waterloo's carrier relationships are terminated, when all of the technology and intellectual property is ultimately liquidated, and the company becomes a memory.

More specifically, I want to know what exactly is going to fill the void.

There are two key areas that BlackBerry excelled in, and that was in secure enterprise messaging and, to a certain extent, mobile device management.

Regardless of where BES and the BlackBerry NOCs end up — if they even end up anywhere — there will have to be a product or a service that fills that void. And in the mobile world, services mean everything.

Despite the BYOD effect that is occurring with iPhones, I honestly don't think Apple wants to be in the secure corporate messaging business, and Google has no real interest in furthering Microsoft's messaging infrastructure within large corporations as it is competing against Office 365/Exchange aggressively with Google Apps for Business and Gmail, regardless of the eventual outcome of the ongoing litigation on FRAND related to Microsoft's ActiveSync patents.

It's also unlikely that Google will end up owning BES and the NOCs.

So that leaves us with two large players — Samsung and Microsoft.

I'm going to refrain about making forward-looking statements about what Microsoft may do, for obvious reasons.

But it is worth pointing out the obvious. Exchange messaging, Lync, and ActiveSync are quite cozy on Windows Phone and Windows RT, and those platforms are native to Windows Intune, so you can come up with your own informed conclusions as to where that all comes into play in the enterprise post-BlackBerry.

I believe that with Samsung increasingly distancing itself away from Google in terms of its own Android implementation, its continuing work on the Tizen OS, and with an increasing desire to be more attractive to business customers (such as with its more recent investments in security and MDM technology), it will attempt to fill a good part of that void itself.

I once thought that the possibility of BES and the BlackBerry NOCs falling into Samsung's hands was unlikely, but I could see them perhaps sharing those assets as part of a group purchase with other interested parties when the final divestitures of BlackBerry occurs.

Samsung also continues to make Windows Phones, so certainly having the ability to do secure messaging on three Mobile OS platforms if you count Tizen has some actual potential.

There's also Lenovo. Lenovo means business, just as much as Samsung does, and we know it has serious mobile ambitions. However, what Mobile OS it ends up using for its flagship business smartphone and tablet platform outside of China is anyone's guess.

My gut tells me that it won't be Android when it enters the North American and European markets, because I don't see Lenovo being just another Android manufacturer only to get in a battle with well-established Samsung for commodity Android share.

It'll want unique value add and a business focus.

I also think that Lenovo will have some difficulty acquiring BlackBerry in whole or in part, because QNX is a carrier-grade RTOS, and neither the Canadian nor the US governments will want that falling into the hands of a Chinese company. QNX will probably have to be sold to a non-mobile industry player for vertical market use, which is to say it is likely it will return to where it was before BlackBerry bought it.

The same can be said for BES and the BlackBerry NOCs, which will have too many data encryption export and data governance issues to allow a Chinese firm to posses those assets. But I can certainly see Lenovo making a number of investments in MDM and a few other areas that will at least make its products attractive for business in the domestic market.

Who do you think will fill the void the Day after BlackBerry? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Smartphones, Mobile OS, Tablets


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Microsoft

    The people who are inclined to install BES stuff are the very people who install Microsoft stuff in their corporations. So Microsoft is the perfect successor to BB in "secure messaging". As grotesque as this sounds, the translation is "securely monitored messaging".... a well known feature of BES and Microsoft's recent offerings.

    Yes, Microsoft is the perfect candidate, as long as they don't rush to integrate it with and ruin the business. But then, Microsoft-inspired IT staff is faithful and God... err, Microsoft-fearing.

    Microsoft might also be extremely interested in QNX, because that would provide them with true real-time OS, something which Microsoft promises and claims to have for many years, but has not yet delivered. Here however the question is whether such acquisition will be approved by anti-trust authorities.

    I don't believe Apple is any interested in the BB artifacts. They do well enough without both BES and QNX. It is also extremely unlikely Apple desires to be imprisoned with all those carrier relations.
    • I can't help wonder if the projected doom is a tad premature??

      Given what I've seen of their MDM, and their crossing into Apple app territory PLUS the BES10 infrastructure supporting multiple platforms including IOS I can't help thinking there's way too many folk happy to see companies suffer needlessly, and glory in their staff being out of work. Last I heard RIM was looking to go private... not bust. And even if the present company went bust, and the assets sold. All the good stuff would remain and be Blackberry whatever you want to think, or prefer to call it. I don't think it will as there are many good things in their pipeline. Then again some folk might prefer to have a dozen servers running individual apps, feeding a secure mail app for IOS instead of a BES10 server with security and a far reduced server overhead and maintenance overhead. That's not a tough choice to make for most folk, and given time should be a real alternative to the current sandboxed IOS apps (and the inherent hassles of integrating functionality into those apps directly (doc, xls, ppt etc)). I for one hope Blackberry find the time to finalise their new mobile platform, and hope it truly minimises my daily grind of MDM and other support grief.
      • It's really premature.

        They're still building cash. Until they have to entirely deplete their cash buildup and start taking on debt, they're nowhere close to "demise." They have a larger worldwide market share than Apple (though it's smaller in the U.S.). All these facts are conveniently ignored by analysts who love the pump-and-dump stock scams.
        Jacob VanWagoner
        • It's not about building cash.

          Well, building cash is no guarantee to be save against the stock majority planting a stupid CEO as Trojan horse like in the case of Nokia, where Elop ruined the entire company.
          However, unlike for Nokia, in the case of Blackberry the stock majority is still Canadian and not US-American, and Canada will surely not give up their cash cow as Europe gave up Nokia.
      • doom premature

        I am not of the opinion, that BlackBerry are doomed, however....

        It is all in their hands. When they were very successful, BlackBerry were specialist (niche) player, leveraging their experience and working with nice profits. They also had very loyal customers.
        But, at some point someone convinced BlackBerry, they are no worse than Apple and could just eat their lunch too. Sounds familiar? We have yet to see where such advice will lead others.

        But, BlackBerry is not Apple. They absolutely lacked the large scale manufacturing proves and sales infrastructure Apple has built in the last decade. As a result, BlackBerry tried to jump from being specialist (niche) vendor to mass market vendor and apparently failed.
        Because, the mass market is absolutely not impressed by how "great" QNX and how "secure" BBM is (neither of which is true, by the way). The mass market demands compatibility, ease of use and as less obstacles to "experience" as possible. Something Apple "invented", and something BlackBerry is apparently struggling at, no matter how hard they try.

        So, to answer your question:
        - If BlackBerry try to compete with Apple and Samsung of today, they *are* doomed. That attempts will simply such out any juice that is left in the company --- in under a year, I guess.

        - If BlackBerry return to their core competence, which is serving specialized niche customers, such as governments and large enterprises, they do stand some chance and even might prosper. This includes all the MDM stuff, about which the mass market simply does not care (at all). Thing is, because BlackBerry was lusting after the mass market, that niche is also targeted by many others, including Apple, Samsung and Microsoft. Eventually BlackBerry can grow in their niche and stay profitable for years to come. They do have the unique competencies to survive there: but in order to do so, they must forget the mass market. For no government will believe "we are special" when anyone can walk to the grocery store and buy the *same* stuff.
  • None of the current companies.

    Microsofts ecosystem is entirely cloud-based, a nightmare in terms of security.
    None of the businesses using BB today (such as the DOD) would ever move into a hosted cloud service.
    IF Blackberry would ever cease (I honestly don't think that since there have a stable customer base and a system ready for the future - and secure) it is rather likely that the Blackberry infrastructure is either merged into an open OS like Tizen/Jolla or might be backed by companies providing enterprise environments already, like IBM (Lotus) or Novell (Groupwise).
    • Silly...

      Cloud? Really? Secure Infrastructure is either secure or not. Cloud is a description of the architecture, and whether public or private (your statement infers public and by inferring public infers insecure) can be made secure, especially for messaging traffic (which was the open question) by handling secure message traffic, no matter where the traffic travels over, which most messaging traffic goes over the open web/ports/protocols. Encrypted traffic can be intercepted, but security remains in place and integrity remains in place, as long as the proper protocols are maintained related to certificate management, key management etc.
      • Except,

        Except when the NSA wants, and gets, EVERYTHING. And there IS no cloud, Pinnochio.
      • Cloud. Realy.

        Windows Phone, Android and iOS systems rely on their dedicated cloud backend which is driven by either Microsoft, Google oder Apple. Since all of these are US-based public clouds, none can be considered as "save" in terms of enterprise data security.
        Of course, such cloud services might be used in high-security environments but only if the data would be encrypted BEFORE being sent into the cloud. None of the three offers such a service to date, and probably they never will since it would infringe US laws like the patriot act, as even the hoster wouldn't be able to access the stored data on governmental request.
        Therefore, most companies who need to rely on high secure environments will rather keep there own private data centers/clouds - and the only reliable way to access these from mobile is Blackberry (at present). Things may change when more alternative OSses like Tizen, Jolla or FirefoxOS are ready for the market.
        However, current state remains that Blackberry OS10 is the solely left enterprise secure mobile operating system.
        • Wow

          You really need to get a better understanding of cloud-based services. And networking. All of what you just nay-say'd already in use.
    • Ummm...

      There already are government agencies using hosted BES.
  • Microsoft Fragmentation Strikes Again

    Because Windows Intune works so seamlessly with Active Directory, it's like they're the same thing.

    • ldo17 Fragmented Logic Strikes Again

      Need we say more?
      William Farrel
  • Price is the key

    If the price for BB is low enough a company like Amazon my jump in, however I think Microsoft is the most likely buyer. BB has some nice patents that would fit in nicely with all MS other cell patents.
    • A more likely buyer

      would be Fairfax Financial Holdings, which owns 10% of the company already. And they wouldn't just strip the assets, either. BlackBerry has been playing the long game instead of the "make the next quarter" game, and that's why Wall Street hasn't been very nice to them.

      Since they carry no debt, they don't need Wall Street. If they can get a buyer, they'll be better off going private anyway.
      Jacob VanWagoner
  • Google will likely be the one to make an offer

    as they really need something after their questionable purchase of underperforming Motorola.
    William Farrel
    • And that something is

      an under-performing RIM?
    • What does Google

      Need with BlackBerry? I'm not positive that they need to buy BlackBerry, unless it's buying it for hardware, which would alienate Google's partners. Software-wise, Android is successful, so it really has no need for BlackBerry, unless it wants to tear down QNX and open-source it (which could compromise security to some extent) or use Blackberry's famous encryption tech. BlackBerry also has a lot of patents, which Google could buy simply to keep them away from Apple.
    • As opposed to Microsoft's

      $2 billion dollar purchase of Nokia? There is only one reason to dump your in-house designers, and developers, to go with an untested product. Logic dictates, Microsoft purchased Nokia.
      Troll Hunter J
      • Your logic is very flawed, but really, you have no logic, and

        Nokia is still an independent entity, which Microsoft partnered with. Get that? Partner? Partners often work together, and sometimes, they help each other with getting a product, or set of products, off the ground.

        But, since that's too much logic for you, you'll never understand. So, keep trolling, but, don't try logic, because, you have no idea what that's about.