The last couple of years has seen a tumultuous range of innovations in the smartphone sector. OEMs have mushroomed all over the world, and there is a cutthroat competition to latch on to the consumers’ attention.
But let’s rewind, and discuss upon the original big names in the mobile phone industry. Without a doubt, BlackBerry is bound to pop up in anybody’s list. Although a somewhat struggling company in recent times, it has now jumped back on the wagon and is actively proving its prowess – not just in the arena of phones, but also in providing valuable solutions and services.
With the launch of their new device, the BlackBerry Classic, the organization is now bringing things to the next level. A very well thought out, strategic move indeed; and in this article, I discuss all things Classic!
THE NEWEST KID ON THE BLOCK
In a world teeming with touchscreen devices, phones with keypads stand out. As a matter of fact, it is quite amusing to note that just a few years back, the inverse held true!
While BlackBerry has a couple of full touchscreen devices in its arsenal, they did not garner much attention, mainly due to flaws in the application ecosystem – the main focus point where Android and iOS gain the upper hand. As a result, sale figures dropped, and the company was in deep waters by the end of 2013.
Then John Chen stepped in.
The company began taking radical approaches to redesigning its products, and how! A very effective strategy – instead of following trends all around you, focus on your strongest points and improve upon them. And this strategy saw the inception of devices such as the BlackBerry Passport and the Classic.
The Classic brought to the table what other OEMs didn’t – a form factor which would be instantly recognized by established businessmen and individuals who once relied on a QWERTY device for connectivity. As aptly put by the company itself,
“[The Classic] is a no-nonsense smartphone that’s built to meet the needs of productive people who appreciate the speed and accuracy that can be found with a physical QWERTY keyboard.”
For people accustomed to the more recent devices, the Classic has a touchscreen display as well. A touch of the new, with the foundation of the old, now that’s neat!
AN UNORTHODOX LAUNCH
A great deal could be fathomed right from the launch event. While most OEMs stress on attracting new consumers to their product, BlackBerry took a completely different approach with the Classic. With the Classic launch, BlackBerry is aiming to woo consumers working in highly structured businesses – who depend on simple tech to organize their everyday activities.
While most launches boast of celebrities, actors and music artists, the Classic launch featured guests such as the Chief Information Officer for Citco Fund Services, the Chief Operating Officer of Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, Ontario (more on this in a bit!) and the founder of Niederhoffer Capital Management.
According to me, this launch brought to the fore a lot of information as far as BlackBerry’s plans are concerned. They’ve now established themselves from a device centric company, to a company which lays more focus on software and other services, and yet relies on its devices with the sole purpose of popularizing its services and at the same time, generating revenue.
VINTAGE DESIGN WITH TODAY’S POWER
While I won’t delve much into the actual specifications of the device, it would suffice to say that the Classic packs quite a punch as far as the specifications are concerned. Hardware wise, it can take on a few mid-range devices in the market, and a plethora of applications are available too: You have the BlackBerry App World, Amazon’s App Store and you can also sideload Android applications, provided you have the .apk files.
The operating system is BlackBerry’s finest, combining easy functionality and familiar interfaces. While BlackBerry 10 OS might not be the most popular one out there, it is one of the most stable operating systems.
APART FROM THE BELLS AND WHISTLES
Now this is where the Classic – and BlackBerry – truly stand out. The inbuilt browser on BlackBerry devices is still, without a doubt, one of the best ones out there. And this point is easily proven by the tests that are conducted on HTMLTest, as evident from the graphs below.
If you would like a detailed comparison between the BlackBerry browser and other popular browsers out there, check out the official HTML comparison here.
Besides the browser, let’s get back to the Classic. It is interesting to note that the device comes with different Enterprise and Security bundles. These bundles are aimed at enhancing productivity and security for any individual, and they are extremely relevant in this day and age of increasing security concerns and need for constant connectivity.
While Enterprise comes with enhanced communication and connectivity options via BBM Protected and BBM Meetings, the Security bundle adds much needed security layers to the equation, in the form of VPN Authentication, BBM Protected and BBM Blend. It is interesting to note that both these bundles work hand in hand along with the Classic to drastically improve upon major drawbacks associated with conventional devices today, as far as collaboration is concerned. And this is where BlackBerry truly, truly stands out.
FROM THE DEVICE, TO THE ORGANISATION
People who think that BlackBerry is long gone should think again. The organization has been extremely active, as evident from its recent collaborations and signups for important international agencies.
Take for example Mackenzie Health – a Canadian healthcare services provider catering to over half a million people. As I mentioned previously, the COO was present during the BlackBerry Classic launch, wherein he made an announcement, stating that the organization would employ the usage of BlackBerry devices along with BlackBerry’s homebrewed EMM solution – the BES12 (basically the Enterprise solutions).
This is a very logical step, given that BlackBerry is still renowned worldwide as a company which provides SERVICES to STREAMLINE THE PRODUCTIVITY of an organization. It goes to show that BlackBerry has quite a few trump cards up its sleeve!
Another instance comes in the form of the recent tie up of BlackBerry and Boeing, wherein they are jointly developing a high security mobile device – specifically for the aerospace and defense sectors. It comes with top notch security features such as call encryption, data protection and can even self-destruct if tampered with.
BlackBerry has also recently acquired Secusmart GmbH – the security company that is responsible for providing security services to devices used by government officials in Canada and Germany.
A common factor shared in all the instances above is the employment of BlackBerry Enterprise Services – or BES. The latest version allows clients, government agencies and other organizations to manage and secure devices on internal networks and devices running on other platforms, such as Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS systems.
In a nutshell, BES offers cross platform connectivity, productivity and security features – which are extremely relevant in modern times.
THE ACE OF SPADES FOR BLACKBERRY
A basic summation of my rants above, this is where BlackBerry truly outshines from other OEMs out there.
In the form of device encryption, privacy and secure connections. Commendable in this regard is BlackBerry’s usage of FIPS 140-2 validated encryption in all its devices.
BlackBerry offers services to remotely wipe your data in the scenario where you might lose your devices. It also offers secure solutions for storage and recovery of passwords.
CONNECTIVITY AND PRODUCTIVITY
BlackBerry Enterprise offers lots of options in this regard, which can be suitable tailored for different individuals and organizations.
STATISTICS AND SOME MILESTONES
BlackBerry is truly rising out of the deep waters it was once in, and is on the roads of gaining back all that it lost. Dramatics aside, let’s jump straight to the numbers.
1. At the end of the third quarter of 2014, cash and investments stood at a balance of $3.1, up by $11 million from the prior quarter. (Source: BlackBerry release on fiscal details)
2. In the same period, there was normalized cash usage of $36 million, compared to $255 million in the prior quarter. (Source: BlackBerry release on fiscal details)
3. In Q2 of 2014, BlackBerry had a negative cash flow of $35 million. This jumped dramatically to a positive cash flow of $43 million in Q3.
4. The net loss is still high, but things are rapidly improving for the company. Back in December 2013, the company’s losses stood at a whopping $4.4 Billion, but the recent figures observed during the quarter which ended on November 29th showed BlackBerry’s losses at $148 million.
5. Share prices have improved too, and 2013’s rate of $8.37 per share has now reached 28 cents per share in November, 2014.
6. The number of active BBM users has also increased, from 85 million in Q2 2014 to 91 million in Q3 2014. (Source: BlackBerry release on fiscal details)
According to Google Trends, the maximum interest is generated from the residents of Indonesia, who make good use of the cross platform availability and secure connectivity offered by BBM!
7. BlackBerry is the only mobile device management (MDM) company which can operate on U.S. Department of Defense Networks. This is mainly because the company has achieved the ‘Full Operational Capability’ level of certification.
8. BlackBerry 10 mobile phones were the first NATO-approved devices for classified communications, up to the “Restricted” level.
9. They’ve also created the BlackBerry Technology Solutions unit, encompassing QNX (embedded software), Certicom (cryptography), Paratek (antenna tuning), the patent portfolio and the Internet of Things strategy. (Source: BlackBerry release on fiscal details)
10. I’ve already discussed upon BES earlier in this article, quoting the high levels of encryption it offers. Standing out in this regard is the utilization of AES 256-bit, which is the highest encryption level of the standard.
11. An apt stat to end with would be BlackBerry’s sources of revenue. 46 percent of BlackBerry’s revenues in the last quarter came from hardware. Services accounted for another 46 percent with 8 percent coming from software sales.
With the launch of the Classic, BlackBerry is doing what other OEMs aren’t – bringing back true blue form factor with the nifty software and hardware specifications that would be relevant today. It is truly a game changing move, and might just steer the fortune in BlackBerry’s favor.
A corporation that doesn’t just rely on its devices, but also on its software services, BlackBerry is truly making headlines. Spearheaded by one of the most dynamic and unorthodox leaders out there, one can actually see the vast improvements being made. It would be extremely interesting to see how things turn out for BlackBerry in the near future!