2013 ended with dark clouds that clattered upon BlackBerry. Investors and analysts were very pessimistic about the stock performance due to the continuous decline in sales and revenue and increasing loss. John Chen, had been the CEO of BlackBerry just for a couple of months and everyone’s was looking up to him.
BlackBerry, Once a market leader was facing a very difficult time. Android has completely dominated the market and still is. Still! BlackBerry slowly rose and proved haters wrong. From a losing company in 2013, It made a successful turnaround and reported a profit towards the end of calendar year of 2014! How? It’s market share has still shrunk to just 0.5% worldwide as per IDC.
In the consumer perception, BlackBerry is just a device manufacturer who relies purely on device sales. However, BlackBerry has been doing so much more since its inception. A pioneer and leader in secure Enterprise Mobility Management, BlackBerry has always been a favorite of high profile people, such as US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameroon and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Under Chen, BlackBerry completely changed its target audience. When the Z10 was launched in 2013, BlackBerry was trying to capture the consumer market, challenging Android and iOS. BlackBerry badly lost this battle. The Z10 is in fact one of the worst devices of 2013 due to its new OS that lacked features that Android offered out of the box. The company soon lost momentum and became irrelevant for the consumer. Now, BlackBerry is targeting a niche market of business professionals who need productivity and security on the go.
BlackBerry rolled out version 10.2.1 in 2014, which brought in the utility to directly install Android apk files. Hence, the hassle of sideloading every app suddenly vanished and third party app stores boomed on BlackBerry devices!
BlackBerry’s first device launched in 2014 was the low cost Z3 (aka Jakarta Edition). A full touch device which was first launched in Indonesia, which has long been a faithful market for BlackBerry and this trick did well. The budget handset was then launched in developing markets like India, Philippines and Nigeria.
BlackBerry even went ahead and acquired two small companies, Secusmart and Movirtu. Further enhancing the security features it offered. Chen is now extremely optimistic that BlackBerry will be profitable in fiscal year 2016.
In June 2014 Chen showed off the Classic and Passport. Passport is the most unique device ever launched by BlackBerry and mostly received positive response due to its innovative keyboard and reader friendly display. BlackBerry has taken a lot of heat regarding the low availability of apps in BlackBerry World. The company soon bridged this gap by collaborating with Amazon and integrating the Amazon App Store as part of 10.3.XX OS version. BlackBerry also developed a whole new feature named BlackBerry Blend that allows the user to display and control the Hub, Calendar, BBM and contacts through a PC or tablet. So, you can now access BBM from your computer or tablet! The BlackBerry Passport sold like hot pancakes in North America. Selling over 200,000 units in just 6 hours. The Passport came bundled with 10.3 OS, which brought in a massive UI change and new features.
While the company was releasing new and innovative devices, It was also working on the next generation enterprise tools such as BES 12, BBM Protected and BBM Meetings. BlackBerry’s plan to monetize BBM had started shaping up. BBM Meetings is a complete success with its highly competitive pricing and mobile features. Chen’s EZ Pass program further helped in increasing BES’s client portfolio and increase revenue. A strategic move was announced when BlackBerry partnered with Samsung for EMM solutions on Android via Knox
BBM has always been a key feature of BlackBerry devices, and in 2014, it just got a lot better. In May, BBM Channels was introduced. It is a small social network built into BBM where communities can easily connect to people. A new fun factor came in with the launch of BBM Shop, Which has Stickers for sale. BBM had been opened to Android and iOS in 2013, and tons of new users were onboard. BBM was further launched in Windows Phone in July. BlackBerry reported that there were 91 Million active users in September. Soon, Minor new features like Message Retraction and Timed Message were added in. BBM is no longer just an IM, But a full-fledged communication tool that can be used by both, a teen and a businessmen.
To serve the wealthy class of people, BlackBerry also launched Porsche Edition P’9983 in Dubai. Finally, In December, The BlackBerry Classic has arrived! Chen stated that it was the best BlackBerry ever built! With the return of the trackpad, Old Bold users were very attracted to the new and improved device. In fact, It sold better than the Passport at launch! Finally, The year ends with BlackBerry finally posting a profit of $16 Million. The company still has a long way to go, it definitely made a ‘Comeback’!
2014 is mostly a bad image change process and the return of the BlackBerry brand into legitimacy in the technology world. If until 2009 and maybe some part from 2010, the BlackBerry brand was a synonym to status and luxury that everyone attempted to follow and imitate. The next 3.5 years were the complete opposite. Everyone tried to abandon BlackBerry like a plague. These technologists that until recently have been BlackBerry users, began attacking the company and Blackberry has become a pariah in the mobile market, while Google with Android and Apple with iOS were racing ahead. The amount of times we’ve heard that “BlackBerry is dead” or that “BlackBerry will not last another year” was enormous.
Three and a half years that everyone loved to hate the BlackBerry. Then in November 2013, John Chen was nominated as CEO and he knew he had a number of complicated tasks ahead, but one which is difficult to impossible is how to turn the BlackBerry brand back into positive contexts.
During the past 12 months, the usual debate about whether BlackBerry will seize to exist or will be acquired has almost stopped. Suddenly there are positive reports, such as the company’s EMM solutions or QNX. Even by top technology reviewers that until recently used to bash BlackBerry. We can now see influential people who are not afraid to show their BlackBerry devices, they also do not get laughed about with statements such as: “What is it? Does anyone still uses a BlackBerry?”.
If 4 years ago, people used to appreciate BlackBerry users, this phenomenon is recurring today: “BlackBerry is for serious people”, “BlackBerry is best for business”. These reactions are very good in our view. Mainly because these are the main reasons most BlackBerry users started using BlackBerry devices. It reminds us of the days when using iOS was unique, if you had a Mac computer at home you probably would be considered a guru. So it is today with BlackBerry. If you have a BlackBerry, you must be a professional. You are looking for a device that does everything, but foremost is an excellent tool.
If we look a little at the upcoming year, BlackBerry has still much marketing work to be done. The debate whether a full physical keyboard still has place in this world must come to an end for as long as there is a market and people are purchasing such devices. The company’s branding should proceed without deflections. Perhaps that in the near future BlackBerry will not return to be the iconic company we knew in 2009, but it should definitely gain a respectable market share amongst the world’s leading users.
May we all have a great 2015 year, and that we will finally rejoice with lots of great BlackBerry moments.