How Can BlackBerry Regain Leadership? Go Android

Article first published as How Can BlackBerry Regain Leadership? Go Android on Technorati.

Yes, it has been a really bad year for BlackBerry. Their security architecture was almost blocked by several national governments. They have lost significant market share. Their PlayBook has not sold well. Their earnings have dropped precipitously. And now, their new line of BlackBerry 10 (f/k/a “BBX”) smartphones have been delayed until the end of 2012 and their stock hit an eight-year low today.

Right now it would be really easy to pile Pelion on Ossa and bash BlackBerry. However, that would not be terribly productive. Instead, I’d rather offer some unsolicited—but potentially very useful—advice as to how to turn around their brand and market position: get rid of the BlackBerry OS move to Android—at least on a few new smartphones

This may sound like surrender. It is not. It would be one of those rare situations when a company applies creative destruction to itself to regain leadership. Here is how it could work:

  • BlackBerry’s OS and Enterprise Server Architecture—the very thing that let them create the smartphone market—is now exactly what is holding it back. It is more vulnerable to outage than newer mobile architectures. It has a smaller developer community and much fewer apps. It does not have the features Android and iOS have. It is no longer a competitive advantage for BlackBerry. It is time to move away from it. Luckily for BlackBerry, Android is open available for their use—without license fees
  • However something far less technical—the BlackBerry keyboard—remains a key unique selling proposition for them. Many people stay on their BlackBerry’s (or at least keep one for work) for one simple reason: BlackBerry’s (patented) keyboard remains the easiest, fastest keyboard to use for “power” email and text users. Imagine how compelling a smartphone would be with Android OS, Android Market and BlackBerry’s Keyboard.
  • Finally, BlackBerry has something else of enormous market value: established enterprise relationships with near every Fortune 500 company (and many, many SMEs). BlackBerry sales reps and re-seller partners could bring a new Android-powered BlackBerry to the enterprise, introducing this new product to a “captive” audience of enterprise-issued smartphone users faster than anyone else. Pleasing these users would later lead to a return to growth of BlackBerry’s consumer market share.

The interesting thing is that BlackBerry does not have to do this for 100% of their product line. They can try it on a few smartphones, in partnership with Google (I am sure Google would be happy to oblige). I am also betting this innovation would create a lot of buzz around their product lime and give $RIMM a much-needed price bump.

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