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The four bright spots in BlackBerry’s future
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The four bright spots in BlackBerry’s future 

“We’re now almost 100 per cent a software company…dramatically different from the company John (Chen) arrived at,” Marty Beard, COO of BlackBerry said in an interview with journalists yesterday. “We’re now fundamentally selling software and focus on the Enterprise of Things…Branding and Marketing, that’s our challenge…we’re still recognized for being a smartphone company.”

BlackBerry’s decades-long association with smartphones which dates back to its Research in Motion days when it introduced its first email-capable, hard keyboard mobile phone to business users in 1999, is pretty hard to shake off – even if the last few years have seen the company’s market share in that space dwindle.

The company continues to sell its DTEK50 and DTEK60 phones (until supplies last), but it has gotten rid of its handset manufacturing business, and leasing its brand and mobile tech to phone makers abroad. For example, last week Chinese company TLC Communications Technology Holdings unveiled the KEYone, a phone it built through a partnership with BlackBerry. The phone will be available in Canada through Bell in late April.

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According to a report from Gartner, BlackBerry’s share of the smartphone market has dipped to 0 per cent in the final quarter of 2016. Of the 432 million smartphones sold during that period, only 207,900 were BlackBerry handsets running the company’s OS, according to Garnet.

BlackBerry is turning its sights on other targets and Beard said the company’s long-talked about pivot is almost complete.

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The maneuver requires BlackBerry to focus squarely on the enterprise market and the Internet of Things market.

Built on the company’s long-standing reputation for mobile technology and communications network security, the strategy will focus on providing software and services to government, enterprise, developers and consumers in five key areas.

The comprehensive mobile-native approach is being called BlackBerry Secure, says Beard.

The five areas are:

Unified Endpoint Management – This plays into the BlackBerry Enterprise Server capabilities. The offerings will include mobile device management, mobile application management, mobile content management, and identity and access management

Embedded Software – This covers the leasing and embedding of BlackBerry software into equipment and IoT devices “as big as cars and trucks…think of QNX,” says Beard. This segment covers real-time OS, cryptography, and analytics.

Network – BlackBerry will be securing data and messages that go through its NOC. The company will offer its customers scale, authentication at a level that most carriers can’t provide, according to Beard.

Communications – BlackBerry believes it has another edge here because while most competitors offer carrier-dependent SMS, it already has a handle on secure messaging via its BBM which has a sizeable enterprise and professional base.

Applications – BlackBerry wants to expand its presence in the application space. Recently the company has opened up to developers its BBM SDK to encourage the development of apps for the platform.

Asked which areas appear to be the brightest for BlackBerry, the company’s COO mentioned four in “descending order of business”:

  • Government
  • Financial
  • Healthcare
  • Transportation

“The government is a huge segment and continues to be in transformation. Financial companies were very early into the application of mobile technology and we are well-placed in that area. Healthcare is not our traditional revenue producer but today there is a lot of interest in IoT in this space. In transportation, our software products can find a lot of application in onboard technology for cars, autonomous vehicles, and trucking,” said Beard.

The common denominator of the four sectors, he said, is that: they are regulated; targets of security threats; and have a growing demand for IoT technologies.

Now BlackBerry has to find a way to sell its services and software to them.

“I’ve got a lot of technology, but I need more channel,” said Beard.

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