The keys to BlackBerry’s revival?

Command keys are coming back to the BlackBerry keyboard. Welcome to 2008.

by Jason Kirby

It sure has the feel of deck chairs being shuffled, but BlackBerry is reportedly bringing back the traditional row of command keys that Crackberryheads once relied on to navigate their smartphones. Citing sources close to the company, the Globe and Mail says CEO John Chen will use a mobile conference in Barcelona tomorrow to announce the keys—including a menu button, back button and trackpad—will be reintroduced on the next generation of phone, having been unceremoniously dumped in the BlackBerry 10 redesign.

How positively retro. As one analyst in the story succinctly puts it, “I wonder if it just doesn’t matter any more.”

But as trifling as the change seems, if you’re going to mount a rebuilding of BlackBerry, this is about the last reliable foundation stone on which to start. Earlier this month RBC released a survey of 1,000 enterprise users in the financial, government and legal realms, and when the bank asked them what BlackBerry feature they valued most, the clear winner was the physical keyboard.

BlackBerry-survey1-660x407

A major complaint among those who bought the redesigned Q5 and Q10 keyboard-equipped phones has been the absence of the familiar control keys that existed on previous BlackBerries. So this is the most elementary of defensive plays as the company attempts to hold onto its loyal rump of users.

But another chart in that RBC survey shows what the company is up against. When enterprise users were asked which smartphone OS their organizations supported—a market that BlackBerry once enjoyed almost completely to itself—well, see for yourself.

BlackBerry-survey2

Providing command keys so BlackBerry users can navigate their phones like it’s 2008 is hardly the type of innovative leap the company is going to need to rebuild its market share.




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The keys to BlackBerry’s revival?

  1. I have been saying this for 2 friggin’ years already. If Blackberry wants to ever manage to succeed, they simply need to start running Android. It is available for them to start doing so today. The app ecosystem is already thriving, zero need to convince /pay developers to port their software.

    It would also allow BB to port and license their secure messaging platform to the zillions of existing Android handsets already on the market, while at the same time allowing them to continue building handsets. There would be huge demand for their secure messaging in the days of NSA snooping, if it were available on handsets that people actually wanted to use. It also has the added bonus of letting BB fire the incompetent team that’s absolutely failed to keep up – much less innovate – in the mobile OS ecosystem for many, many years now.

    It would also allow them to attempt to expand to markets outside of “the financial, government and legal realms”. BB may still have a decent foothold in those markets, but 5 years from now when those industries are hiring new graduates, not a single new graduate will want a BB from work, much less even know what the heck it is.

    Heck, Microsoft, who’s been making Operating Systems for decades can’t even get a handle on the Mobile OS front. What makes BB think they’ve got the magic pixie dust to do so? The only innovation to ever come out of BB was putting a physical keyboard on a cell phone. They’ve never produced a better than average Operating System.

    I offer this advice up for free, because as a Canadian I’d like to see this company succeed. But to do so they’ll need to cut loose the dead weight and innovate with the rest of the world.

    • The only thing you’ve shown is that you haven’t kept up with recent events. BBM has been available on Android and iOS for a few months already.

      Claiming that BlackBerry has failed to innovate is only true if all you want to do is waste time playing games and posting useless images on Instagram. They still offer the best, most complete device management platform, bar none. Apple has very little built in, and Android virtually nothing. Microsoft is gradually making inroads there, but it’s not quite there yet, and BES is the only one that is cross-platform, with support for Windows Phone forthcoming.

      The recent update to the BlackBerry 10 OS added support for running most Android software, which is about as close as anyone interested in security should want to get to Android. Whatever its other merits or failings, Android is primarily a data mining vehicle, in support of Google’s advertising business.

      If you follow security news, you would also know that there is evidence that the NSA and CSEC have even less trouble extracting data from iOS than Android. The recent encryption flaw that was announced in iOS doesn’t inspire confidence, either, and there is no indication of how long it has been there.

      Switching wholesale to Android hardly seems like the right approach for BlackBerry. It hasn’t exactly worked wonders for HTC, Motorola or Sony. Trying to graft security onto Android has, so far, been an exercise in futility. Samsung has been trying (with Knox), but it’s far from usable, secure or workable. A switch to Android would likely cost them the contracts they have left in regulated industries. There’s a reason the U.S. president, PM Harper and many others don’t use Android or iOS.

      • I wasn’t referring only to BBM, I wasn’t clear, but I mean their entire secure e-mail setup as well. And I wasn’t suggesting simply releasing apps for the other platforms, I mean licensing out the underlying technology to the other platforms, thus making them secure.

        BB may still be the go-to platform for those who are concerned about security. But how long will that last? Another year or two? Google and Apple will catch up sooner than later.

  2. i think you opinion is ridiculous. Blackberry is certainly not dumping the Blackberry 10 design. They are simply adding a few keys to navigate the new software hoping to make the transition easier. I believe the new Blackberry 10 phones are the best on the market today. Their issue is a poor public perception issue because of a terrible marketing campaign when they launched their new phones.

    • Totally agree with you, I switched from Android to BB10, and I couldn’t be happier! BB10 is miles ahead od android and IOS in terms of multi-tasking and stability, not to mention the incredible smoothness and the OS. And now thanks to the recent OS update, we can run android apps too! I really hope more people wake up and check these phones out; a proper marketing strategy couldn’t hurt either..

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