Did BYOD spell death for BlackBerry?

In the era of anywhere, anytime business, it’s ironic that the company once synonymous with “the mobile office” now faces an uncertain future.

Until recently, BlackBerry was a legend. Everyone remembers those “super cool” sales guys whose jobs were so important that they had to be connected 24/7. They would whip out their BlackBerry with its sleek, compressed keyboard and be ready to work at a moment’s notice.

Today everyone is that cool and no one – from the CEO to the lowest mailroom clerk – would go anywhere without a phone that works as hard as they do. So how did BlackBerry end up trolling for investment suitors? The answer can be found in the move to BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device.

The BYOD Revolution

Since its introduction, iPhone transformed the mobile experience. It inspired a new breed of devices, apps and behaviors. Even the strictest business users liked being able to text family or launch an Angry Bird in their few minutes of downtime, an option not available on those company-issued BlackBerries.

But BlackBerry offered the one thing that that truly inspired mobile business: security. Without insurance against hacking, no CIOs would have put them into their workforce. For years, corporations resisted supporting other devices, as they did not offer that same level of protection. Thus, Androids and iPhones gained in popularity and the BlackBerry became a secondary device to be carted around with the laptop.

Read: Business Analytics: The Journey to Success

In the end, IT was force to relent and bow to the populist movement. They could no longer dictate what people would carry and had to find a way to support whatever device employees preferred.

Where Does BlackBerry Stand Today?

Unfortunately, BlackBerry’s attempt to imitate the competition – the Z10 – was too little, too late. It flopped to the point that they announced a near $1 billion write-down on hardware inventory reported last quarter.

BlackBerry is not out of the enterprise game completely. The company enjoys a 38% market share with companies employing over 10,000 people and a 33% market share among government and financial institutions. However, the company’s chaotic strategies led Gartner to recommend that BlackBerry enterprise customers ditch their solutions altogether – and take no more than six months to find an alternate strategy.

The Future of Blackberry

There is no doubt that BlackBerry’s expertise will enhance any company’s mobility strategy. In a paradoxial twist, sales of its enterprise solutions should increase as IT departments continue to deal with the added complexity that BYOD introduced and the lines between what is personal and what is corporate continue to blur. Perhaps the millions of BBM apps downloaded in the last 48 hours will give the company some breathing room as it tries to come up with a solid strategy or investor plan. With Cisco, John Scully, Google, SAP, Fairfax Financial and more in the mix, the best of BlackBerry should live on.

BlackBerry cautions against speculation, stating, “We remain steadfast in our mission to deliver the most secure and powerful mobile management solutions and smartphones to our customers.”

Regardless of how it plays out, there is a special place in history for BlackBerry. Without its ability to secure mobile communications to stringent specifications, IT would have never have allowed mobility into the business world in the first place.

More importantly, BlackBerry will end up being as important to future Hollywood “period pieces” as the oversized Motorola phones that define the 80s.

What do you think about the future of BlackBerry? Feel free to continue the conversation in the comments below.

For more information about BYOD, read, 5 Rules for Survival in the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) Era.

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Written by Gretchen Clarke – Gretchen on Twitter | Posts by Gretchen
Gretchen has been writing on the key trends in the communications industry since the birth of the open standards movement. She provides a deep understanding of mobile, networking and UC technologies and how they benefit service providers, business and the consumers they serve.

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