New York – BlackBerry Ltd. moved boldly to stake its claim in secure mobility space at the Security Summit show. But that wasn’t the only marketplace the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone vendor was shooting for. The company also presented its case for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) solutions and the Internet of Things (IoT).
At the event John Chen, BlackBerry’s CEO, took all industry criticism in stride acknowledging the challenges facing BlackBerry head on and in some instances with a degree of humour. He looked around the audience and asked who had been to last year’s Security Summit. When only a few hands were raised, he joked that they were probably BlackBerry employees.
Chen went on to make BlackBerry’s case that market share in mobile devices was not relevant to BlackBerry’s future plans. Chen’s only comment on handsets was that “they had to make money”. After that, neither Chen nor any of his team ever raised the topic of BlackBerry phones. Even in the lobby where the product demos showed off BlackBerry’s new software offerings, there were actually more Apple and Samsung devices than BlackBerry handsets.
Under Chen, it seems, BlackBerry is trying to position itself as a “device agnostic” firm.
Enterprise Mobility Management
BlackBerry’s CSO David Kleidermacher reinforced the point that manufacturing mobile devices is not the end game. He noted that “Blackberry’s aim is to manage all mobile devices and more.”
The release of BES 12, according to Gartner, has indeed vaulted BlackBerry into a leadership position in the area of Enterprise Mobility Management.
Kleidermacher went further, pointing out that Chen and his team have a more ambitious plan, one that has the potential to restore some, or maybe even all of BlackBerry’s former stature. They aim to dominate the large and growing market for secure communications of all devices, including sensors and embedded systems that allow M2M communication in the IoT.
The Internet of Things Opportunity
As BlackBerry CFO Marty Beard explained, IoT is expected to generate over 11 trillion dollars in economic value and require 4.3 trillion dollars of new technology by 2024.
But the question remains whether BlackBerry can compete and win a significant share of this emerging market. Chen and his team used the remainder of the Security Summit to make the case that BlackBerry could do just that.
While the company’s final client panel was dominated by healthcare clients, Kleidermacher pointed out that BlackBerry provides secure communications for field military operations.
He went on to explain that if a soldier gets captured, his or her captors have the full access to the resources of large governments, including armies of computer scientists and even super-computers at their disposal. Yet even then, he said, BlackBerry’ network can be trusted to remain secure in that environment.
Significant investment and acquisitions
Marty Beard, BlackBerry’s COO reminded the audience that the company still has significant cash reserves. As a result, he said, despite the losses, it can afford to make the required investments to achieve and maintain leadership – they spent over 100 million dollars last year to develop and expand their secure messaging options.
Part of this has been spent on acquisitions. In September of 2014, BlackBerry added Movirtu – a company that has brought “secure container” technology. In April 2015, just before the last Security Summit, Chen announced the acquisition of WatchDox; an Israeli company that has some has some impressive document and data collaboration tools.
And days before this event, Chen announced the acquisition of AtHoc, a US company that specializes in crisis communication.
In the presentations and the demos that accompanied the summit, the team made the case that the synergies in terms of products and technologies are very clear – and watching the presentations from the leaders of these acquired companies, one felt that they bring more than their software.
They all spoke passionately about “having done their due diligence” as well as their excitement about the opportunities of working with BlackBerry and Chen.