Monday, September 23, 2013

Blackberry - victim of disruption, or victim of lack of innovation? Or lack of marketing?

First, the news:

Well, that didn't take long. BlackBerry plans to become a private company in a deal that is worth just $4.7 billion.

BlackBerry's largest shareholder, Canadian insurance company Fairfax Financial, hopes to buy the smartphone maker for $9 per share.

Others have a few weeks to issue competing offers, but regardless of what happens, the value of Blackberry is clearly lower than it was just a few years ago.

Tad Donaghe had the following reaction:

BuhBye BlackBerry

Another victim of Disruption!

But is Blackberry truly a victim of disruption? Certainly the case can be made, based upon this statement in the CNN article:

In the corporate world, BlackBerry once held a lofty position as the king of the enterprise world. But companies have been increasingly willing to let employees work on phones they choose -- a phenomenon known as Bring Your Own Device. Those employees are overwhelmingly selecting iPhones and Android smartphones.

OK, so Blackberry thrived in a period in which enterprises chose the phones for their employees, and after that business model was disrupted, Blackberry's fortunes fell.

But there's more to it than that.

Blackberry's earlier success was not solely due to business lock-up. It was also due to the features that the Blackberry phones offered; features that, for a time, met the needs of business users.

The ability for corporate workers to buy iPhones and Android phones should not, in and of itself, have sounded the death knell for Blackberry. As a phone provider with an emphasis on the enterprise market, Blackberry should have leveraged its enterprise advantage to encourage developers to provide enterprise-level applications. I'll grant that it's a hard sell to get people to develop apps for a platform, as Microsoft is discovering, but if Blackberry had done this, then it wouldn't matter whether corporate users could buy iPhones or Galaxies or Droids or whatever.

Unfortunately, that isn't what happened, and it got to the point that a single company's announcement of Blackberry platform support was deemed newsworthy.

But there are others who say that Blackberry's woes have nothing to do with market disruption, or lack of apps, or bad software. To Lucas Atkins, Blackberry 10 is a technically superior product suffering from a single failure - marketing.

BlackBerry has yet again failed to successfully market the new products…properly.

Sure, we have the whole “Keep Moving” thing and that odd deal with Alicia Keys, but aside from carrier-own advertising that’s it. The SuperBowl commercial looked as though BlackBerry would take the bulls by the horn. Instead, it just seems like wasted money. Did anyone really get intrigued to learn more about BlackBerry 10 when they’re not told anything at all?

Even if you're not in an industry that demands innovation, and even if you're not in an industry with disruptive factors, poor marketing will kill you every time.
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