SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How BlackBerry is being reinvented as the secure business software provider it’s been

By Patrick Houston, long-time industry leader and founder of Media Architects

Who’d have thunk it? Not me. Or not until Harry and I had a recent conversation with Blackberry’s David Moellenkamp.BBRY2674 Cloud Blog Banner

Remember the days when every blockbuster business or government movie character clicked away on a BlackBerry keyboard? Gone. And for a time everything at the Waterloo, Canada, company seemed to go from bad to worse. Its every attempt to reverse its slide — never mind regaining its stature — seemed tone deaf to its customer base, never more symptomatic than its ill-begotten launch of the Playbook tablet.

Even BlackBerry itself admitted to very crux of its challenge in what actually became a prize-winning PR campaign built around the slogan a “From Relic to Relevant.” Relic is right. Like so many others, I figured the company was headed the way of those ghosts of business history like Digital Equipment, Palm and Kodak.

But then we talked to Moellenkamp. Ever since John Chen came aboard as CEO last year, BlackBerry has been showing glimmering signs of a comeback. Here’s mainly why: It’s actively and publicly dispelling any lingering delusions it has of being a leading smartphone maker. Self-awareness is, after all, the first step. Instead, it’s embracing its consummate natural strength as a provider of secure communications services (Stick to your knitting!).

By way of introduction, Moellenkamp is BlackBerry’s executive director of Enterprise Solutions Development, one of its four key operating units. A Devices group is still one, but it’s outweighed by three others, all revolving around enterprise software services. Across the board, the company’s moves are being dictated, Moellenkamp said, by BlackBerry’s newfound focus on its core strengths of security, productivity, communication, and collaboration for business.

But those are just words. The real issue: Can Blackberry execute on them? But Moellenkamp offers us a few dots. And if its audience can connect with them, well, it just might be on the verge of becoming a player yet again:

Consider just three:

  • BlackBerry is moving to the cloud. The company has a gem in its mobile-device-management platform, BES12. I have no idea what its name has to do with product. I do have an idea — a good one — that BES12 is a gem. Businesses, especially in highly-regulated sectors like healthcare, remain consummately concerned about data security, and it doesn’t take a genius to understand what vulnerabilities mobile devices present. Moving it to the cloud promises to make the EMM-platform promises that much better. It’ll make it accessible and affordable faster to more companies, especially small-to-medium-sized ones. And to make it more accessible to a wider swath of businesses, it’s going to have to be easier to use. BlackBerry says it is, but we’ll have to see because, after all, like beauty, ease-of-use in is the eye of the beholder.
  • BlackBerry is playing in the Internet of Things. Get this: Secure BlackBerry software powers embedded computer chips in cars, factories, and medical devices. Who knew? The company has data centers around the world transacting 35 petabytes of mobile data a month. It handles peer-to-peer connections with 700 mobile and partner networks. As more things connect to more other things, security will become an exponential concern. Yep, you’ve got it. BlackBerry has a big ace of spades in its hand.
  • BlackBerry is acquiring more advanced security technologies. In April, it bought an Israeli company called WatchDox. Even though endpoint security has become all the rage, WatchDox adds a smart, new precaution to the mix: It embeds security into the document itself, allowing it to “travel” with the file no matter where it goes. You can protect, share, and work with it on any device. You can see where it is at any moment. You can control who can edit, copy, print, and forward. Most of all, you can revoke access or delete a file remotely. And by the way, as a company name, WatchDox, I get. Dox, doc, dog, nice.

BlackBerry just reported its second consecutive profitable quarter, and its customer loyalty scores have spiked. It was named the biggest gainer in an annual ranking of 220 big brands, released in March.

It’s too early to declare a comeback. According to reports as recently as May 5, CEO Chen was opining the challenge of convincing his own employees that BlackBerry isn’t a smartphone company anymore. (Hey, disbelievers, have you been hibernating? Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft have won that battle. But take warm comfort. You’re in good company. Nokia, Ericsson, HTC, and Sony are also-rans too.)

Nevertheless, the glimmers are bright enough to suggest that BlackBerry shouldn’t be written off as a has-been — and should be considered as channel partner that can add a suite of secure business software services to your portfolio.

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BlackBerry Releases Hosted Version of BES10

blackberry logoToday, BlackBerry Ltd. announced that it has released its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (BES10) as a hosted solution. BES10 Hosted grants users access to the BlackBerry EMM and security with the convenience of a hosted option, and it is now available globally via the company’s channel partners.

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Smartphone News: Blackberry beats the street while Amazon enters the market

blackberry-logo1The Smartphone space got news from an old player and a new player this week with the industry’s creator announcing that it isn’t dead quite yet, while a brand new player entered the market.

BlackBerry reported a small profit for the fiscal period ending on May 31. The $23 million worth of black ink the waterloo, ON-based company announced both beat the street’s expectations and turned around losses of $423 million in the preceding quarter and $84 million in the same quarter last year.

Revenue came in at $966 million, down from $976 million in the prior quarter ahead of analysts' expectations of $963 million. Ultimately this meant a loss of 11 cents a share after adjustments – also ahead of analyst projections of a loss of 26 cents a share.

“Our performance in fiscal Q1 demonstrates that we are firmly on track to achieve important milestones, including our financial objectives and delivering a strong product portfolio,” said Executive Chairman and CEO John Chen, who took over the reins of the embattled mobility vendor in November, in a statement. “Over the past six months, we have focused on improving efficiency in all aspects of our operations to drive cost reductions and margin improvement. Looking forward, we are focusing on our growth plan to enable our return to profitability.”

BlackBerry also announced what appears to be one of the steps in that plan: a deal with Amazon that will make BlackBerry apps available through the Amazon Appstore. Through the deal, which will become relevant with the release of BlackBerry 10.3 in the fall, BlackBerry hopes to dramatically revitalize BlackBerry World, the vendor’s moribund app store. This certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing, however some observers may question what appears to be a primarily consumer play from a vendor that might be better served focussing on the Enterprise space.

BlackBerry also hopes to foster the development of BlackBerry 10 apps and said it will unveil an enterprise application partner program for corporate developers, ISVs and systems integrators over the coming months.

Amazon had news of its own with the introduction of its first smartphone.

The Amazon Fire features a new 3-D dynamic perspective technology, four front facing cameras and Firefly – an app that will recognize objects including artwork and music and then streamline the shopping experience through Amazon’s retail portal.

Amazon-logo-2The new device, which is available for pre-order online from Amazon and AT&T and through brick and mortar retail shops, has a 4.7-inch HD display and runs the proprietary Fire operating system on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM. AT&T will be the exclusive distributor of the device, making it available to AT&T Partner Exchange members, but limiting its overall market reach (as does the proprietary OS). Pricing for the new device, which will ship July 25th, comes in at $199 for the 32-GB model and $299 for the 64-GB model, with an AT&T contract.

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BlackBerry Acquired by Private Equity Firm Fairfax Financial Holdings

Z10 black ENG Gen FrontNoShadowIn what many analysts and media have been speculating for the last couple weeks, BlackBerry announced this morning that it has signed a letter of intent with consortium to be led by Fairfax Financial Holdings. The news comes shortly after various news outlets reported that the smartphone manufacturer would lay off approximately 40 percent of its staff in the coming months.

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BlackBerry, BlackBerry, Where Art Thou BlackBerry?

 KAI3873 low crop1By Debi Bush, CEO, CMIT Solutions of Denver

Never would I have envisioned using a BlackBerry phone! Years ago I remember seeing an executive for a big regional bank using her BlackBerry phone and was perplexed as to why she liked it so much. She even liked the part of deleting an email on her BB phone while the email would remain on the server in her Outlook. I cringed upon hearing that for the duplication of effort, creating more work and therefore decreased efficiency?

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AgNerd: How BlackBerry is that?

Herrles country farmIt’s true that BlackBerry has been in the news lately, but I’m not going to rehash the conversations currently being played on CNBC. You can go see those for yourself. Rather, my monthly series, “How BlackBerry is that?” continues where my teen-age son, and I, seek out the most interesting BlackBerry stories of the year. Hands down, for August, it was the AgNerd!

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BlackBerry Q10 Pre-Orders Now Available in the US

Many of you likely remember when BlackBerry, with much fanfare, announced its BlackBerry 10 phone family back in January. With launches occurring around the globe, I was able to watch virtually, the launch that occurred in New York City…even Top 40 musician Alicia Keys showed up to the event! We also managed to give away Z10 devices courtesy of BlackBerry for our SMB 150 winners...Harrybbb, and Harry Jr., also review the Z10 here.

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Da’ Kid and BlackBerry 10

Welcome to the real world. Sure, there are plenty of early BlackBerry 10 mobile device reviews being posted up. Fancy test labs are dissecting and reverse engineering the hottest mobile device on the market. However, at SMB Nation, we’re taking our testing the streets and have been giving the product a real world test.

Pictured: 14-year-old Harry Jr., with his BlackBerry Z10 device.

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Not sun (nor Beach) could keep us from BlackBerry Live

The good news is that the annual BlackBerry conference, known as BlackBerry Live (formerly BlackBerry World) was held in Florida last week. The bad news is that because Florida is so pleasant, events held there always compete with the sun and beach. However, that didn’t stop our own Chris Bangs from attending as press and filing this report.

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BlackBerry’s New Q5 Device Aims to Entice Users in Emerging Markets

At the start of its BlackBerry World event this week in Orlando, FL, BlackBerry introduced its new Q5 smartphone that is part of the new BlackBerry 10 family. The BlackBerry Q5 smartphone features a QWERTY keyboard with discrete keys in a new design that aims to provide a fast, effortless experience for users on the go.

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BlackBerry Makes Changes to its Partner Support Services Program

BlackBerry recently announced that it has revamped its BlackBerry Partner Support Service (BPSS) program to ensure its partners are able to continually and effectively collaborate with BlackBerry to provide end users with high-level customer support.

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AT&T Stores Breeding “Mini-Sales Agents”

Recently I shared the story that my testing the BlackBerry z10 mobile device had me visit the local AT&T store at the Silverdale Mall to get a new SIMM chip. All good.

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Back in Black: BlackBerry makes its Journey Back Toward Profitability

Just a few days after releasing the availability of its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 device here in the U.S., BlackBerry President and CEO Thorsten Heins said today that his company has returned to profitability.
Heins made the announcment this morning on the company’s year-end results call for the quarter that ended March 2. In the face of numerous challenges, BlackBerry has gone from a significant operating loss in the first quarter of the year to an operating profit in the fourth quarter. According to the smartphone maker, it has an exciting new mobile computing platform, is profitable and has a healthy balance sheet.

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BlackBerry 10 Hits US Today, Now Offers More than 10,000 Apps to Customers

As the much-anticipated BlackBerry 10 hits stores today in the U.S., developers continue to support the new device, bringing more than 30,000 new applications to the platform over the past seven weeks. BlackBerry earlier this week announced that BlackBerry 10 customers now have access to more than 100,000 applications for the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone on the BlackBerry World storefront.

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SMB Nation, SMBTN Reveal 2013 SMB 150 List

SMB Nation has released the final results of the 2013 SMB 150 contest, currently available at The SMB 150, a collaboration of SMB Nation and SMB Technology Network, recognizes the top 150 influencers within the worldwide SMB technology channel. Influencers include IT consultants, analysts, VARs, MSPs, channel consultants, vendor and distributor executives, members of the media and community leaders.

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My 30 Days with BlackBerry Z10 Begins!

Harry Article VideoIt’s HERE! My BlackBerry Z10 arrived late last week, and I’m up for the 30-day challenge that awaits me.  Like a kid at Christmas, I couldn’t wait to open the box and assemble the mobile phone. It feels good to have that giddy feeling again! (View my video at right for more info!)

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BlackBerry 10 Introduced; RIM Changes Name; Alicia Keys Named Executive

If there ever was a diverse headline in my editorial career, I would say today’s is up there in terms of hitting the sweet spot. You have to be living in a man cave (note Harrybbb's technologically advanced man cave at right) without any modern technology to know that the BlackBerry 10 smartphone was released simultaneously around the world today. In addition, the former company known as RIM (Research in Motion) officially renamed and rebranded itself simply as BlackBerry.

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BlackBerry 10…an Expected Game-Changer for VARs, SMBs?

By Harry Brelsford, Founder and Chairman, SMB Nation; and Regina Ciardiello, Editor, SMB Nation

So what’s the buzz on BlackBerry 10? Is it a game-changer? The short answer is that I don’t know (YET). I’m a BlackBerry fan and, full with disclosure, they have been a huge supporter of SMB Nation for many years. I’ve used many of their products (and still do), so that’s why my hope is that the upcoming Jan. 30 launch of BlackBerry 10 will go down as one of the “Top 10 Tech Stories of 2013.” You might say that it’s too early to tell, with 2013 just beginning. However, we have been tracking outlets such as CNBC and others who recently revealed that Apple announced it was cutting its component orders for the iPhone 5 because of softer than expected sales. On the same day this was announced, interestingly enough, RIM (BlackBerry’s parent company) saw a rise in its stock price.

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