“First survival, then the turnaround.”
That’s the message from new BlackBerry CEO John Chen, keenly aware that the situation is desperate for the once-dominant business smartphone giant. The company is floundering – its share price hovers precariously below the $10 mark, when once it was over $140 – and both consumers and businesses are ditching BlackBerry for Apple and Android smartphones which are seen to offer more for less. Just compare handset prices on EBay to see what the Canadian firm is up against.
As Chen told news agency Reuters: ‘You have to live short-term. Maybe the prior management had the luxury to bet the world would come to it. I don’t have the luxury at all. I’m losing money and burning cash.’
Even the White House is considering alternatives to the BlackBerry; currently the only mobile device with the necessary security classification to be used by presidential aides, as this VentureBeat report highlights. So how can BlackBerry refocus and regain some of its lost ground?
Allow third-party apps
Potentially, the single-biggest driving force behind consumers’ move away from BlackBerry is the lack of third-party apps. The BlackBerry 10 was supposed to boost its manufacturer’s fortunes, but instead sent them into an even steeper nosedive: its second quarter fiscal 2014 losses totalled some $950 million.
The pummelling delivered by Google and Apple has been exacerbated by BlackBerry’s paltry apps offering. A quick look at the big names missing at launch – no Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Gmail, SounCloud, PayPal, YouTube or Spotify, to name just a few conspicuous absentees – highlights the differences between user experiences, yet the BlackBerry 10 is more than capable of running these apps thanks to the Android Jellybean 4.2.2 runtime.
If BlackBerry can eradicate the hurdle its operating system places before third-party apps – they must be converted into BlackBerry-ready package files – and allow access to Google Play’s 9 million apps, then the droves about to power on their Android and Apple devices for the first time might hesitate before doing so.
Monetise BlackBerry Messenger
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is the internet-based instant messaging service that helped boost BlackBerry handsets’ initial popularity. It’s free to use and was BlackBerry-exclusive until late 2013, when the software was adapted and released for iOS and Android operating systems.
However, BlackBerry is now working hard to turn BBM into a self-sufficient, profitable enterprise. How? BBM is developing a secure, encrypted PC-to-mobile messaging service and refining BBM still further for Android and iOS devices.
There is also BBM’s take on emoticons, the little sprites used to denote simple emotions. BBM plans to introduce stickers, featuring images of famous franchises like Shaun the Sheep and WWE. Users will be able to buy new packs and include them in a message to convey a feeling.
Invest in its security expertise
Thanks to the Heartbleed bug, a vulnerability that meant users’ personal details were at risk when they visited certain websites, BlackBerry’s security knowhow has once again become a major selling point. The company is investigating opportunities to bolster its expertise – perhaps spurred on by those White House officials now considering Android and iOS smartphones.