Seeing the Bigger Picture: BlackBerry decides to Blend in and Stand Out

What an interesting month September is shaping up to be for BlackBerry fans around the globe.

John Chen kicked things off on day one in an interview with The Hindu Business Line where he revised the odds of BlackBerry’s survival yet again: on assuming the helm he was 50/50; later in a Re/Code interview (when pressed) he upped it to 80/20; and as of September 1st, he’s no longer worried about that remaining troublesome 20 percent, stating “I believe we have mitigated that risk already.” (And the media immediately followed up with eye grabbing headlines like “BlackBerry CEO now 100% certain of BlackBerry’s survival”… You saw those headlines right?)

On a side note, he also re-emphasized his commitment to mobile handsets, hopefully dampening the perpetually annoying rhetorical question “Is BlackBerry exiting the hardware business?”. Sigh.

Anyway, we also now have a target launch date with the Passport – on or about September 24. In preparation BlackBerry has taken out ‘traditional marketing based’ ads declaring their comeback and standing Tall and Proud behind their Canadian heritage.

Canadians Love A Great Comeback.
It’s true! We really do, you know?

Restructuring and mass layoffs are now officially a thing of the past; we’re just beginning to see leaked images of the (hoped for) “BBOS Killer”, the BlackBerry Classic; and finally, a new Business unit (BlackBerry Technology Solutions) has been created to leverage future opportunities revolving around BlackBerry’s tens of thousands of patents, paratek antenna technology, QNX, cryptography expertise and a secure Cloud based approach to the Internet of Things (headed up by new hire Dr. Sandeep Chennakeshu).

Yes, they’re hiring again. Spread the word.

Speaking of The Cloud, unless you were vacationing on Mars the last few weeks, September also brought a stark reminder of the importance of personal security with the now infamous iCloud scandal surrounding several celebrities. Analysts and tech observers alike were shocked by the revelations of Apple’s oversight (incredible, frankly) that allowed hackers to obtain access to individual accounts through brute force password attempts on Find My iPhone (using a publically available script called iBrute). For the record, Apple denies that Find My iPhone was used to hack into any of the affected accounts but even the existence of such a simple hack (and Apple’s revealing patch of it within hours) is troubling. But that’s been discussed to death already. Back to BlackBerry.

Generally speaking there has been positive interest in the tech media world surrounding the Passport with its intriguing square dimensions and touch capacitive keyboard. And with the recent announcement of a global BlackBerry launch event – “Something Big Is Coming” – mentions of BlackBerry should continue to build in the media up to the launch date.

See The Bigger Picture.
Do you see it yet?

And finally, I come to the point of my post, heh. While everyone seems to be focused on the Passport, I feel like the “Bigger” news is getting lost like the proverbial baby in the bathwater: namely, the arrival of BlackBerry Blend and what it continues to say about BlackBerry going forward.

Look at the invite above and read the tagline again. “See The Bigger Picture”. Sure, it’s obviously a play on the fat dimensions of the Passport, a device that breaks the design paradigm of modern cellphones. But I think there’s more to it and it’s speaks to the tale of Two BlackBerrys.

There was the BlackBerry of the past that was a closed shop, treated its app developers like a nuisance, mocked Apple, then mocked Android, and just generally “didn’t get it”. And now there’s the BlackBerry of today that has not only accepted other platforms but is attempting to become the mobile leader in cross platform development. It began with former CEO Thorsten Heins’ announcement of cross-platform BBM for Android and iOS, and current CEO John Chen has taken up the gauntlet and pushed the boundaries to new levels. Following on the announcement of cross platform BBM was cross platform BES10, a partnership with Amazon, and (sometime this fall) the launch of BES12 which will manage FIVE platforms – BBOS, BB10, Android, iOS and Windows Phone – securely.

The latest chapter of this strategy arrives on September 24th when we’ll see the launch of BlackBerry Blend: the first open, mobile, cross platform software package that will extend your cellphone functionality to tablets, laptops and desktop computers – Windows, Android, OSX and iOS. Chen famously said “it’s not religion … it’s business” when fielding questions during BlackBerry’s Q4 2014 earnings report. Indeed, he seems to have abandoned traditional Mobile Religion (aka “The Walled Garden”) and embraced Platform Agnosticism which is nothing but good news for all consumers – Enterprise and beyond. And in the longer term? I think it will be good news for BlackBerry as well. With BlackBerry Blend you won’t need to live behind those walls anymore. You can have an iMac desktop computer, a Samsung Galaxy tablet and a BlackBerry 10 phone and they will communicate effortlessly with one another. That’s the proper way forward for all platforms, and long overdue.

And that’s what I think BlackBerry really means when they say “See The Bigger Picture”.  Indeed I do.