Tag Archives: Android

Next phase of Blackberry

A few months after my June 2015 post that BlackBerry should adopt Android as its underlying platform, BlackBerry did just that with the Blackberry Priv in November 2015.   I’ll admit that I am happy to see that John Chen reads my blog and takes my advice. It may not look like the plan worked, but I would argue that had BlackBerry not adopted Android things would be far worse right now.  At least the BlackBerry faithful have a thread to hang onto until the next moves play out.

With the platform issue out of the way, the question became, how to stop the financial bleeding of hardware design, manufacturing, and support costs.   Admittedly, I haven’t been paying attention for a while, but I believe BlackBerry made the only possible move that makes sense. They outsourced their hardware manufacturing and design process. This is superior to dropping or selling the money-losing phone hardware business altogether since BlackBerry still needs a platform they control where they can build their software.

BlackBerry started the outsourcing process with Foxconn but were left having to provide marketing and distribution themselves.  Their latest iteration of a deal is now with TCL who will take over that entire operation.   Outside of the US, TCL is a pretty good size electronics company, so this is a pretty good move for BlackBerry.   BlackBerry can rest assured that their hardware is relatively safe and sound from a design, manufacturing, and marketing perspective.

A key question remains. How does BlackBerry differentiate itself enough to get a core group of buyers that they can eventually grow?”  I think their way back in is through the enterprise. The company I work for allows us to choose either an iPhone or an Android device. I see a relatively even split between iPhones and Android devices (I’m going to pretend this represents a good sampling of corporate America and since this is just a blog post I don’t have to provide any data to support my idea, LOL.)  If BlackBerry can get themselves back in with Verizon and AT&T, I am sure that a large group of users will select them when choosing a phone.

As much as I love my iPhone I might be tempted to a BlackBerry running Android to have my good old Blackberry Hub, and physical keyboard back again…

Blackberry platform future

One question in many people’s mind is where does Blackberry go from here.  They have already stated that they are pivoting to become a software and services company. This leads me to ponder several possibilities for where they go with the Blackberry OS story in the future.

One possibility is that the rumors are all false and Blackberry will stay with their current QNX underpinnings.  This would probably be the final nail in their coffin, if this was the decision.  Time has proven that Blackberry missed the boat on getting an OS developed that would get traction with application developers.  In fact, today a majority of apps on the Blackberry are ported applications running on the built-in Android runtime environment (albeit poorly and slowly, with many compatibility issues).

Also, since Blackberry is a smallish company whose workforce has already been shrinking, future development of the QNX part of the Blackberry OS will take valuable resources from future development of the top portion of the stack, which is the only portion of the Blackberry experience that adds value to the user.  In other words the QNX portion of the Blackberry stack is muda.

Another possibility is that Blackberry will adopt the Android platform as its core OS environment.  This would offload their organization from having to provide the valuable resources for fully developing the plumbing of the OS, while at the same time allowing them to contribute bug fixes, and targeted improvements (through the open source mechanism). It also gives them clear visibility into the entire software stack so they can continue to control the security of their offerings.

As for the developer story, if they chose the Android stack, Blackberry could easily shift their users to use Android apps provided by Blackberry World, which would become their curated version of the Google play store.  They could provide the current blackberry runtime on top of the Android kernel to provide backwards compatibility with the current BB10 apps.

Doing the same thing as the Android prediction, only using the Windows 10 stack is another interesting possibility.  The Windows Phone share is also not large, but the future is very promising for Windows Phone.  The new Universal Application story which will allow write once, run anywhere is very interesting indeed.  All that would seem to need to happen for this to work is for Blackberry to convince Microsoft its worth their while to create a version of the .Net core runtime that will run on their current platform.  Then they can have the Windows store on their phones.

Out of these three options I think the Android version makes the most sense.  They get to offload a lot of the grunt work of an OS to Google and the open source community, they get access to an already huge application pool.  This is compatible with their Enterprise server MDM story as well since they can manage Android devices and applications already with BES 12.  Finally, it allows them to focus their limited resources on the things that differentiate them from their competition, their security and integration with enterprise workflow.

Please post a comment below to let me know what you think…