Sep 10

BlackBerry & the business user myth

BlackBerry's all-work-and-no-Playbook?

Poor RIM. They sell more smartphones than anyone else on earth, yet they can’t shake this sense of foreboding.

Maybe, possibly, it has something to do with the iPhone/Android freight train headed their way.

But no worries. RIM has a plan for BlackBerry. Not only will they plow ahead with their “#1 smartphone for business” strategy, they’re going to double-down on that one.

Now they’ve announced plans for a tablet — you guessed it — made especially for business. The BlackBerry Playbook.

This is the “thank you sir, may I have another” approach. Not content to have their share of the smartphone market savaged by iPhone and Android, they’re going to use the same strategy to do battle with iPad and the Android tablets-to-come.

Only one little flaw in this plan, fellas: the business user is a myth.

It’s based upon this antiquated notion that people who work in large corporations are unmoved by such trivial things as design, or that business and pleasure don’t mix.

It’s simply untrue today. Business people, as  some have long suspected, are human beings as well. They do care about design. They also care about simplicity. They have personal lives that intertwine with their business lives. And they’re more productive when they’re happy with their technology.

BlackBerry has had a longstanding love affair with business, meeting the rigid standards of corporate and government IT. But from the numbers, it’s pretty clear that business has a wandering eye. The groundswell from within — c-suite included — has opened the floodgates for the more people-friendly iPhones and Androids.

By their own schizoid behavior, RIM confirms that business users aren’t what they used to be.

They introduce the BlackBerry Torch with the line, “Business, meet fun. Fun, business.” Even though Torch has precious little fun to offer. The business-focused tablet they dream of building is whimsically called the Playbook, with PR images touting photos and games.

It’s like your 60-year-old uncle pulling up a seat at the kids’ table.

If the picture looks bleak for Playbook now, imagine how it will look next year when the thing finally ships. By then, there will be a second-generation iPad (or a family of them), as well as a fleet of Android tablets from a number of manufacturers.

RIM’s lifeline to the IT department is looking more and more tenuous every minute…

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  • Synth

    The importance of the business user declines with the price of the product in question. The main reason why the business user was so critical to the success of the PC was because most PCs in the 80s and 90s were relatively expensive purchases, especially if you wanted a powerful machine.

    But phones or slates? An almost completely consumer driven product because they are relatively cheap and they better had not require an IT department for support. Especially when you start to have 2-fer-1 sales like BB. Can you imagine MS and IBM offering a 2-fer-1 sale on PCs back in the 80s or 90s?

  • ken segall

    Unfortunately, phones do require IT’s support. That’s why iPhone has not moved into the enterprise environment quicker. There standards that iPhone didn’t begin to meet until the second generation, and some IT guys still grumble that iPhone isn’t there yet. BlackBerry was born to work with enterprise systems, and so has always been lovingly supported by IT. Also, some corporations have strict security rules requiring that they be able to wipe mobile technology remotely so that messages and files don’t fall into enemy hands when people leave their phones in planes. iPhone has this capability now, but didn’t have it then. In general, corporate IT guys have not exactly shown their love for Apple. They’ve always been an obstacle, but they’re now facing internal pressure — including that from senior leadership — who demand that IT approve the technology they really want.

  • Cory

    Actual Ken I don’t agree with the reasoning that Blackberry’s adhere to the ” strict security rules”… If being secure means that the messages (emails) are stored and sent on a third party server (a Blackberry server) that is run usually by the host telecom… then it’s only as secure as this third party that they have no control over. I actually think that running an Exchange server with iPhones is way more secure and can be under the total ownership and control of the IT department.

    I just don’t think people (IT departments included) think much about how many servers actually touch (and store) the message once you hit the send button. With Blackberry, there is just one more server that touches and stores it – the Blackberry one.

  • rd

    You did notice that RIM is
    recommending HTML5/WebKit and Flash as
    the main development tool for PlayBook.
    and JVM is just for backward compatibility.

    Can you imagine Enterprise using HTML5 or Flash
    to develop their apps. I don’t think so.