In all honesty, this is a hard sell. I’ve been supporting Blackberry in various capacities since they were little pager devices (collective Aww…). I’ve reveled in their downfall though, ultimately believing that ActiveSync was a much better solution than the old BES servers. Regardless, Blackberry is in its final throes, right? Well, maybe. Rumors about Microsoft purchasing them abound. The Motley Fool wrote 3 Reasons Why Microsoft Should Buy Blackberry, but I think they are widely missing the mark. At least I hope so.
Why the Fool is Wrong
Reason 1: Keyboard phones targets business users
Had I been drinking when I read this, my monitor would’ve been splattered with water. iPhones, which are keyboardless, have a massive hold on the Enterprise. As Baby Boomers retire and Millenials come in, only Gen X-ers, like myself, might want keyboards on our phone. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who would. This argument seems counter-intuitive to Microsoft’s mobile first mantra and the capabilities you get with their Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) solution.
Microsoft believes the user is mobile. Long gone are the days of having 2 devices (work and personal) for the same person. Side note – if you have 2 devices, I’m sad for you, stop being paranoid already! What Microsoft is really driving is a consumer and business experience across one device with Enterprise level protection and segregation with EMS.
The last point here is around porting Blackberry’s key features and apps into Microsoft’s app store. Microsoft could do this, but why bother? Clearly, Android and Apple have the largest market share. Blackberry itself seems to have given up its own app store and can borrow from Android and Amazon.
Reason 2: Windows Phone Distribution Channels are In Place
Blackberry had a great distribution channel for years! They aren’t having a problem getting their phones out there, the issue is that no one wants them! Would Microsoft purchase Blackberry, convert their phones off Blackberry OS to Windows OS and then distribute, possibly. Seriously though, I’m sure Blackberry knows how to distribute phones, they just don’t seem to be able to sell any.
Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia was at a turning point for Nokia. They had dropped out of the world’s top 5 phone manufacturers, but had started turning things around with the Lumia line. With Nokia’s integration taking a long time, would Microsoft bother rescuing a failing Blackberry to do the same. Man, I hope not.
Reason 3: BlackBerry Messenger could be a signature app
With the leak of Microsoft Flow and the rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business, and the consumer Skype, Microsoft is already sporting 3 chat platforms (arguably 2, but I listed 3, so there you go). Skype does support chat still and, in the Enterprise, Skype for Business underpins all Office collaboration. Would Microsoft buy Blackberry just for Blackberry Messenger? No. Would Microsoft integrate Blackberry Messenger into Windows 10? No. Would Microsoft integrate the features from Blackberry Messenger into Skype, Skype for Business, and possibly Outlook? This one I could believe.
What’s Matt Take on This?
I’m glad you asked. Admittedly, there could be some hardware benefits in Reason 2, but there’s something else that caught my eye recently. Amid the layoffs, Blackberry is ensuring Blackberry Messenger and their Enterprise Security Solutions remain in tact. This protects Blackberry’s most valuable asset – their IP. Imagine if Microsoft integrated Blackberry’s IP into their existing EMS solution and Office 365. They could potentially shift the Enterprise market back to them.
I’ve long believed any player has an opportunity to recapture share in the mobile phone market because of the refresh cycle of the devices. I’m hopeful that Continuum, Windows 10, and their recently released application development toolsets will help them grow their app store and recapture market. Layering Blackberry’s security and encryption IP could make for a powerful play in the Enterprise.
Microsoft does have a problem though if this is their purchase strategy. Blackberry is larger than their IP at the moment and hard decisions will have to be made. The offer from Microsoft shouldn’t be large enough to cover everything Blackberry is doing currently, but where they are heading – to a niche mobile security player. If this happens, Microsoft will get the true value of Blackberry.