BlackBerry Doesn't Need to Stake Its Survival on Consumer Handsets

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-08-13 Print this article Print

This is the network that the company has now brought to iOS and Android, growing its penetration beyond its own devices and helping ensure that it has a pathway to the future regardless of whether anyone buys another BlackBerry smartphone or not.

The role of QNX is probably more important to BlackBerry because it lives mostly in the world beyond the turmoil of handsets and fashion. While BlackBerry 10 is a version of QNX, this microkernel-based real-time operating system reaches far beyond the smartphone.

There's a high likelihood that QNX lives inside the late-model car you drive, the industrial controllers that make your company's HVAC system operate, and it may be in the medical systems you hear beeping along hospital corridors. QNX may be in the avionics that control the airliner that takes you to the other coast and in the control systems of that nuclear power plant that you're flying over on the way.

With so many disparate parts of the company serving so many different types of customers, it's easy to see why some have suggested that BlackBerry sell off the best parts to make its stockholders more money than they would make if the company stayed intact, and when that's done, simply dissolve the company. But this also explains why there's such a strong interest in taking the company private.

With such a broad focus, BlackBerry could retreat completely from the smartphone business and keep running its network and its real-time operating system. But that's not likely to happen if only because BlackBerry has a solid core of customers for whom there is no alternative.

For many government users in the United States and elsewhere, BlackBerry devices are the only choice. While iOS and Android devices have been approved for some government uses, for others BlackBerry is the approved standard. The same is true for users in sensitive positions in financial services, pharmaceuticals and software development to name a few. So while BlackBerry's consumer business might shrink, that's not the same thing as saying that the company is doomed.

Interestingly, BlackBerry also remains a favorite in many emerging economies for the same reason that it's popular in sensitive environments. It's hard to steal data from a BlackBerry, and in those regions in the world where repression is the order of the day, a BlackBerry provides critical protection.

What it really means when you read predictions of reports of BlackBerry's impending demise is that U.S.-focused observers who think about consumer electronics believe that BlackBerry's share of the consumer market will drop. This is one part of BlackBerry's business, and it doesn't necessarily threaten the company's existence. There's a big world beyond consumer cell phones in the U.S., and that's probably where BlackBerry is looking.


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