Last week's official US release of the BlackBerry Z10, the BlackBerry 10 touchscreen device, on the AT&T network marked the official entry of BlackBerry as a player in the formidable US smartphone market. While most consumers may not be swayed from their shiny, sleek iPhones and Android devices, businesses may still have a compelling reason to deploy BlackBerry 10. However, BlackBerry needs to do a few things before businesses will jump on the bandwagon, including opening up their management API and luring consumers to their device.
One of the biggest challenges for BlackBerry is BYOD. As more enterprises adopt BYOD policies and turn to mobile device management (MDM) products to manage the influx of employee-owned iPhones, Androids, and other smartphones downloading corporate data, BlackBerry may be left out in the cold, as it hasn't opened up its management API to support other smartphones. According to Van Baker, research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, most enterprises won't want to walk away from their existing MDM investments to convert to BES 10, the only MDM application that currently supports BlackBerry and other devices.
"Enterprises are moving very aggressively to MDM, mostly in response to the BYOD phenomenon. Telling them that their investment in an MDM solution is something they'll have to walk away from is just not a smart thing to do," Baker said in a telephone interview. Part of the problem with BES 10, he said, is that it isn't as strong of an offering for MDM as some of the other players out there -- and there are plenty for enterprises to choose from, about 100 that are viable and 25 to 30 that are in a position to be significant in the market. Currently, about 40 percent of BlackBerry's target enterprises have an MDM solution in place, but that figure is changing rapidly, Baker added.
But opening up the management API is only the tip of the iceberg, according to Baker. BlackBerry also needs to woo consumers, convincing them that BlackBerry 10 -- whether on the touchscreen Z10 or the QWERTY Q10 -- is the phone to have, particularly as more enterprises embrace BYOD rather than deploy a single smartphone platform to all employees.
"There's a big, pent-up demand for the Q10 that will buy them a lot of goodwill," Baker said. Once that's released, the QWERTY keyboard die-hards will descend, mainly because there aren't a lot of alternatives to the familiar QWERTY keyboards.
Addressing the apps issue will go a long way toward fostering consumer adoption, Baker said. Currently, BlackBerry has approximately 1,000 apps available but still has some glaring holes. "If I'm going to look at BlackBerry and there's no banking app or Hulu or Netflix, that's a problem," he said.
The challenge for BlackBerry is that while there's a larger focus on the top few hundred apps, it's those smaller applications, like for banking, entertainment, or navigation, considered critical by consumers that will sink or float the BlackBerry 10. People tend to make decisions to buy based on whether or not they can download these applications, Baker said.
BlackBerry also needs to get carriers excited, enticing them to offer BlackBerry 10 devices as the third-party alternative to iOS and Android. With both Windows 8 phones and BlackBerry vying for that coveted third-place spot, some believe there may not even be room for a third player in the smartphone market, Baker said. However, BlackBerry needs to advertise and raise awareness to get people to look at, play with, and take home a BlackBerry 10 device.
— Christine Parizo is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.