Reports that Samsung and BlackBerry were engaged in buyout talks were enough to send stock prices on a roller coaster ride in recent days. Even though the reports were denied by company executives, it prompts analysis of the value BlackBerry still hangs on to. For a few years now, the Canadian mobile phone maker has been the butt of jokes, like this 2012 headline from Gizmodo: Be Nice to Your Sad Friends With BlackBerries.
So what is Samsung, the number one in the mobile market, going after that it allegedly offered $7.5 billion for BlackBerry? The simple answer: enterprise users and enterprise features.
Business users love a physical keyboard
While Samsung, Apple, and Google might reign supreme in the consumer user segment, BlackBerry still has a hardcore following among business users, and a lot of this is due to the physical keyboard that provides ease of use for professionals pounding out e-mails on the go. If you want an up-to-date smartphone with a physical keyboard, BlackBerry is your only real choice.
BlackBerry stepped away from physical keyboards briefly last year after the launch of the BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system, putting to market touch-screen handset models like the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Z30 which failed to make an impression against iPhones and Samsungs with similar specs.
With the release of the BlackBerry Passport in September 2014, with its hybrid touch screen-physical keyboard design, business users responded, with the company receiving 200,000 orders within the first two days of its launch. U.S. markets are anticipating an early 2015 launch of the BlackBerry Classic, an updated hybrid handset with 2 GB of RAM and dual core 1.5 GHZ processor.
BlackBerry’s real value is in secure servers and services
The minor success of the Passport couldn’t stop the revenue landslide for the Canadian mobile manufacturer, which has seen a staggering 81 percent drop-off in hardware sales since the start of 2013. The company’s value isn’t in the handsets, though. It’s in the servers.
BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) has the reputation as the being the most secure in the industry because BlackBerries operate on their own server hardware. The middleware software package, which gives users access to a corporate intranet, offers a checklist of security features, like Active Directory-like permissions, push e-mail, secure syncing and collaboration, remote app installment and removal, wiping features, and more.
BES security is a high-profile selling point. During the Sony hackings, the company turned to its retired BlackBerrys to handle secure internal e-mail and communications. Then there’s the BlackBerry’s most famous user, President Barack Obama.
CEO John Chen is using BES to stage a comeback for the flagging Canadian mobile manufacturer. With the November 2014 rollout of BES12, BlackBerry announced that the platform will work on rival mobile devices, and integrate into Salesforce CRM software.
The Salesforce side of partnership bodes well for BlackBerry adoption in regulated industries like healthcare, law, and the public sector. Salesforce’s document management features, when coupled with BES12 security and encryption, offers users in these industries powerful, secure work tools. Now that these features come equipped on several different phone operating systems, it opens the door for a maintaining the mandated level of security even in a BYOD environment. That’s huge for an enterprise setting, where platform-agnostic applications have become a must-have.
These partnerships have been the feather in the cap of Chen, who has started to hit back at the competition’s open teasing of the BlackBerry brand, even taking to the New York Times editorial page and Capitol Hill to get the message out that BlackBerry is the leader when it comes to secure mobile.
Turning down the Samsung offer means Chen isn’t ready to hand over BlackBerry’s legacy just yet, while it also may have something to do with the legal obstacles that come with large scale international business buyouts.
Whatever the reason, it might be a while until we see a BlackBerry physical keyboard on the next iteration of the Samsung Galaxy.