Is BlackBerry Your Next Enterprise IoT Platform Vendor?

B. Shimmin
B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • BlackBerry appears to have risen from its own ashes and now seeks to put its intelligent mobile device expertise to work within the ultra-lucrative (and ultra-competitive) IoT marketplace.
  • With a unique set of resources and technologies at the ready, BlackBerry is capable of building an end-to-end platform, but the trick will be for the vendor to work with, not against, established enterprise IoT platform players.

It’s not often that a company is able to rise from its own ashes. Like Mother Nature, the great crucible of modern capitalism doesn’t often grant a stay of execution for those found wanting. See: TWA, Atari, DeLorean Motor Company or Enron. Once-dominant forces to be reckoned with, those companies are no longer with us. For a while, it seemed that the beloved brand BlackBerry was about to join their ranks.

The proud Canadian vendor and its quirky but effective little physical keyboard-equipped phones were on the brink after failing to adapt to the app-enabled smartphone era ushered in by Apple, Google and Samsung. But, as things stand right now with turnaround master CEO John Chen at the helm, BlackBerry is poised for a comeback. Just don’t expect hardware to define BlackBerry’s future. You see, BlackBerry wants to be your trusted partner for enterprise mobile productivity, secure communications, endpoint management and the Internet of Things (IoT). Yes, that’s right, IoT.

BlackBerry would like to recast its IoT endeavor using the term ‘Enterprise of Things’ (EoT). That’s how the company referred to IoT during its inaugural analyst day event in San Ramon, California, this week, which I was fortunate enough to attend. Obviously, this is a nod and wink alluding to the company’s preferred playground of intelligent mobile devices in the enterprise. Yes, it is yet another three letter acronym (TLA), but it accurately defines the company’s capabilities and interests, at least for now.

How will BlackBerry tackle and succeed with IoT? As you may have guessed, the company’s future opportunities will emerge from its current capabilities. The venerable BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 12 has been renamed BlackBerry Unified Endpoint Manager (UEM), and that, along with all of its productivity software and various products acquired from Good Technology, will bubble up into BlackBerry Secure. This, in turn, will support and utilize the company’s continuing BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) network, its venerable embedded QNX OS and more recent projects like its container/trailer asset-tracking solution, Radar.

That all sounds messy, but the idea is simple. BlackBerry knows how to connect, manage and secure mobile devices. That strikes right at the heart of IoT, at least IoT for smart, connected devices like heads-up displays and automobiles. And yet BlackBerry’s IoT (okay, EoT) platform can be so much more than that. Products like Radar show us that BlackBerry knows how to build an end-to-end IoT solution, from sensor to analytics. QNX isn’t limited to auto infotainment systems. And BBM itself reveals BlackBerry’s extensive reach into the global carrier market.

Given these assets (and many others such as the company’s cryptography expertise acquired from Certicom), it’s easy to imagine BlackBerry establishing a proper enterprise IoT platform on par with those of Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Google and Amazon. BlackBerry Radar even reminds me very much of Amazon’s recently introduced IoT Button Enterprise Program. Imagine a portfolio of extensible Radar-esque sensors capable supporting specific use cases in vertical markets beyond transportation. Clearly, there’s a lot of room for BlackBerry to play in IoT.

The trick will be for the company to find a way to fit into the existing enterprise IoT platform landscape without once again going head-to-head with established vendors Google, Microsoft, Amazon et al. Given the company’s ability to run on platforms from partners Amazon and Microsoft, this seems likely. But, that sort of relationship will require some finesse beyond the creation of a new TLA.

What do you think?

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