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Blackberry World 2011 Ц Main Events
The annual Blackberry World conference was held in Orlando this year and it was dramatically different from what we have seen before Ц same participants and RIM has not changed a lot but the air was different. We all know that in the recent moths RIM has been a subject of severe criticism both grounded and exaggerated. This probably has something to do with the atmosphere of the event or may be this is just my imagination. Anyway, with just a handful of announcements at Blackberry World RIM gave us a chance to take a glimpse of the development strategy of the company Ц the Blackberry devices will remain the cornerstone of the market policy but not the primary element. For the first time in many years Blackberry starts to actively develop their services for all the platforms on the markets essential for the company. In the fuss of the conference many fail to notice that the company practically declared that it is going to compete for the corporate users even on the markets where the company is not yet known or where Blackberries for some reasons are not popular. Let's have a look.
iOS and Android devices control by Blackberry
What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Blackberry? I think that in one hundred cases out of a hundred the answer will be mail. But the technologies behind both the devices and the network infrastructure of Blackberry include not just PUSH mail, IM and other applications but also sophisticated security policies that can be used by corporate users. For big companies Blackberry is a very handy tool that allows the employer to manage the employees' phones according to their posts, deactivate stolen or lost handsets upon erasing all of their contents. There are about a thousand of different security policies and almost an infinite number of presets that can be customized to fit the needs of a particular company. Together with complex encrypting techniques it makes a handy business tool.
Not so long ago RIM has acquired the Ubitexx company that has created ubi-Suite that can manage devices on different platforms. RIM decided to expand the product line and offer a means of management of various devices that would comply with Blackberry Enterprise Solution but would not include support for key technologies like PUSH mail. One the one hand, the company is already the leader of this market and offers ready products for any device (phones and tablets on Android/iOS). On the other hand, it targets at creating an entire family of such products. So if you want to get maximum features buy a Blackberry pack and complement it with Blackberries. If you do not need all the functions or you already have a big quantity of handsets running on other OS you can opt for a simpler software pack. This is a very interesting solution and judging by the persuasiveness of RIM managers we can expect that these products will be quickly adopted by many companies.
What's in this for RIM? The short term profit from the sales and support of the software packs is not very important Ц what is important is that the company will be getting loyal customers who will eventually switch to more Blackberry products. And this is where we get to another important announcement RIM has made indirectly relevant to this one.
Blackberry is Not All About Corporate Users
A few years ago Blackberry realized that for rapid expansion they need mass products. They could create something inexpensive but that would defeat the concept of mail realization in the company and eventually fail. They needed to move a bit sideways from the corporate users without alienating them. Storm has become a result of this policyЦ t was designed for mass market and has succeeded to a certain extent.
But the main obstacle before RIM was that even with a different design their handsets were always bound to the software created for corporate users. The result of so much effort has become a burden in this case. The success on the corporate market does not lead to a success with regular users, but quite contrary. The company realizes that and takes a new course of actions for their OS. Blackberry OS will be now receiving both corporate features and everyday life functionality. Blackberry Balance is the first robin of this policy. And for the first time this functionality is applied in Blackberry 9900/9930 and will be later available on other new smartphones (the older models will probably not be updated).
So, what is Balance? A corporate user can set his mail, account, Twitter and other services just as on any other modern phone. But unlike other phones it features security policies managed by the network administrator (the employer). So in your inbox you see both your business and personal messages Ц very convenient. And you cannot forward a business message or post such information on Twitter using your personal account. So Balance incorporates both your work and personal phones. Moreover, files created in corporate applications cannot be opened in any application you have installed on your own and so on. The concept of two egg baskets. If you are leaving your job you can keep the phone since the administrator will simply wipe all the corporate data while all your personal data (photos, contacts, messages) will remain intact. It is a very smart solution that will even further increase the life time of Blackberry phones and add a significant number of users to the army RIM has already got.
Blackberry Responds to the Android Strategy
Another step to keep users loyal to their services is the new Blackberry ID. This service was presented in the previous generation of phones but has not yet been fully developed. This concept is very similar to Gmail logging in in Android Ц you can use your contacts and settings having entered your password only once. The same idea is used in Blackberry ID Ц bind all the phone's settings and user's preferences to a single login and password. As a regular user I fully support this idea. This feature is unnecessary for companies and will be redundant for corporate users. RIM has not yet shown their hand and told us what services and to what extent will be available with such ID. But I suppose it will be pretty basic in the beginning and expanding in the course of time.
This is a proof that RIM is aiming at mass market, see for yourself Ц from now on all Blackberries will feature Wikitude Ц an application of augmented reality. You turn on the camera and the application views tags of objects that have been recognized. There are similar applications in development for iPhone and Android. This is future, but not a future for corporate users Ц it is merely an interesting feature for regular users.
Wikitude can potentially boost the market of such software since Blackberry already has a lot of preinstalled tags on the map. Moreover, the browser allows you to identify other users on the map and interact with them. This sounds like sci-fi but it already works. As with any social networking technology you cannot predict its future. It might be just a flop or may be in just a year it will have millions of subscribers.
As I see it, 2011 poses a complex though interesting objective for RIM. Having cornered the corporate market the company must now find a way with regular users to secure future expansion on new markets. And this must be done very cautiously not to lose any of the current users. This measure is taken because of Apple and Android that have rushed into the corporate market. And though their stakes of this market are tiny so far they will be getting better and steal sales from Blackberry. RIM can expand only by entering the mass user market.
We now witness the company's attempts to do so. And the mentioned software updates as well as new smartphones both with their design and materials are trying to attract the widest possible range of users. Following the link below you can read the first impression of Blackberry 9900/9930 which is one of the most interesting smartphones of its form factor. And it is also a corporate phone Ц a successful hybrid.
We cannot predict whether the expansion of the Blackberry smartphones family into new market niches will be successful. It largely depends on the company's decisiveness or unwillingness to take chances. 2011-2012 will become critical for the company and will show us what RIM is capable of.
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Published 03 May 2011
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