Cyber name recognition keeps BlackBerry in the game

The company wants to be as recognised as Microsoft and Cisco, but for endpoint security.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: ZDNet/Aimee Chanthadavong

Blackberry was once a household name in the smartphone space, but that dissipated when the company's handset sales were eclipsed by more dominant players, such as Nokia and Apple.

Since then, the company has been undergoing what Blackberry Australia, New Zealand, and India managing director David Nicol has labelled as a "transformation journey" for the last six years, back to the company's so-called roots: A security firm for enterprise.

"We've transformed from a consumer devices company to enterprise security company. But really our origin was all about security," he told ZDNet.

"The reality is we produced some great devices and we got caught up in the wave of consumerisation. But if you look at our business today, our focus is on enterprise customers, typically the more regulated or focused on security, as a customer is, the more they're likely to look at our technology."

And to the question of why the Blackberry name is still around, Nicol said there's a historical attachment to the name and the people who need to be aware of the change that the company has undertaken are already in the know.

"The reason we retained the Blackberry brand is you don't need to ask people many questions before they draw the link between security and Blackberry," he said.

"They recognise yes, we had devices, but it was secure email, secure messaging that was pretty core to those devices.

"The rebranding effort is really focused on enterprise and governments clients, rather the broader market. Yes, while there is still some uncertainty of what we do now, across IT decision makers, CSOs, CIOs, we've made some pretty significant progress in helping them understand what we do today."

And so, what is it that Blackberry does today when it comes to security?

According to Nicol, the company is now a "leading provider of intelligent endpoint security solutions, with the human in mind".  

"What we're building is a single unified platform designed and capable to protect any endpoint on the planet," he said.

"You may be using Microsoft as your partner for delivering cloud or productivity solutions as a stack. You may be looking to Cisco for providing a range of networking capabilities as a stack. When it comes to endpoint security and endpoint protection, we would like to earn that same right at Blackberry."

He is optimistic that since the company's acquisition of AI-powered security company Cylance, a deal that was worth $1.4 billion -- the largest for the company to date – artificial intelligence (AI) will underpin a lot of the work that Blackberry will launch in market, such as CylanceProtect for Mobile, designed to prevent, detect, and remediate threats on mobile endpoints.

"CylanceProtect for Mobile is not only Cylance's AI engine, but it's baked right into Blackberry UEM (unified endpoint management)," Nicol said.

AI technology has also been prominent in Blackberry's involvement in the connected and autonomous vehicles space, which Nicol said will continue to remain as a priority. He said there plans to demonstrate the company's AI-powered security solutions in connected and autonomous vehicles at the upcoming annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It follows on from announcements this year by Blackberry revealing its partnerships with Jaguar Land Rover and Denso.

In May, the company decided to farewell its beloved messaging platform, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), for use by consumers, however at the same time it said the enterprise version of BBM can now be used for personal use.

For its Q1 results reported in June, Blackberry reported a net loss of $35 million. However, Nicol assured part of the company's commitment is to "deliver incremental growth starting next year".    

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