About 6 months ago, prior to the first article I wrote on Seeking Alpha, I would catch up on information of the then coming BB10 products through typical Google searches and certain fan sites. My incentive was to educate myself as to what choices to make for my own company, a small technical support/communications company that I started a few years ago after being in the same industry for 25 years of my life. We were currently on the existing BlackBerry Bold/BES 5 combination, and RIM (as they were known at the time) had just delayed the release of the first products again and had taken the resulting stock hits as part of that announcement.
My dilemma was that I had to make decisions for the direction that my company would take, and the outlook was getting bleak for RIM. The options out there were iOS and the iPhone 4/5, and Android running on some flavor of hardware. Should we stick it out and see if there really was something behind what RIM was working on?
Because I deal with customer information that can be considered private, I have always put security of that information as a priority when it came to features needed in my smartphone.
Sure, I wanted to move to the more feature filled, altered life, experienced through the eyes of an addled iPhone or Android owner. I wanted to have access to any application, whether it was for communications, entertainment, or funny noises. My dilemma was always keeping one thing front and center: Security. Maybe I was okay accepting that all my texts could be looked at, and the phone numbers I called and received calls from, were tracked.
I wasn't okay with my email being open to this. BBM had become a tool that I used to communicate with my staff, business partner, wife, and children. Those are private communications. Customers that used BlackBerry devices were given my pin number, and we used these tools to better the way we communicated with our customers. Our friends. Our families. I enjoyed knowing that those conversations were private. I don't recall ever reading about a breakdown in the security provided by RIM. If you read their history, you will see that they came from a background that was in the lead position from the beginning and in my eyes, still is today.
I stayed with BlackBerry, tiring out Bold 9900s in most cases, but only suffering in the apps and screen real estate departments, still holding our own when it came to communication, both delivery and receipt.
February 5th rolled around and finally, we were able to get our hands on a device that had been in the hands of a select few. Leading up to the launch, in a phone call with someone from BlackBerry who had been using the smartphone for awhile, said to me:
"It is by far the best smartphone I have ever had. I always wanted to try an Android phone, have played with some friends', and like it. My issue was I know from being in this industry how open those platforms are. When you get one of these phones Alan, you'll see what I mean after using it for a few days. See if you can go back."
There was not only a sense of pride in how he said it, but a life that reflected good on a company that had been through some very hard times. A fall from grace that would be hard to recover from. The fact that they are here competing is a testament to the will and ability of the current group. Just for being here, they have my applause.
Now leading up to that launch, BlackBerry (BBRY) stock had been rising from a low under 12 at the beginning of this year to a high of almost 18, but the trend was a growth leading up to the launch. There are three main parties that always get mentioned, and a fourth that can probably be considered a disappointment, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) with WP8. I think the broad disappointment with Windows 8 and almost a reluctance to upgrade, may have hurt their chances in this race. The association is obviously there. Two of the parties, owners of a very significant part of the market, are Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) with a lot of Samsung's help, and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). These are companies with a very devout following, and the majority of the OS' that control this space.
There is no reason for me to prove that the open structure of Android is what makes the environment wrong for security. There is also no reason for me to make a case that BlackBerry is more secure an environment than Apple. Anyone debating that to themselves needs to do some research before finishing this article. Ask any true IT professional that simple question: "What is more secure? BlackBerry, Apple, or Android?" It is an easy majority for BlackBerry. The same way you could ask what has the most apps, even the most useful apps, and probably also the most useless apps, the answer would be Apple or Android. These are measurable variables that don't need to be based on opinion. The research is out there.
In my opinion, there were two main reasons that BlackBerry lost the market position they once had. First was their failure to accept the changes that were brewing, and they under estimated the product that Apple had released into the market. They could have been like Samsung and started to develop a product based on the same concepts put forward by Apple. Touch Samsung didn't have to develop and maintain an operating system. It was provided for them. They didn't have an A list of clientele that used their products like RIM did. Clients such as government agencies, military personnel, and Fortune 500 companies who depended upon what they had become accustomed to. Fast delivery of email, and a device built to communicate securely. Making a whole scale change wasn't going to be easy, and the current OS couldn't compete.
BlackBerry fell into the trap of providing what was currently successful, but not scalable, to devices that current customers wanted. The Storm and Torch weren't up to the competition that was iPhone version X and Android on almost any device. The desertion was massive because the growing users of smartphones cared more about apps and features than they did about security and private fast communication.
BlackBerry needed to reboot while staying viable enough to hold a base level of customers. They did this quite well under the circumstances.
Now here is where things stopped making sense to me.
BlackBerry announces a security vulnerability that they had already patched on a version they didn't even support anymore, and their stock goes down. This affected nobody. Nobody. This is a feel good. BlackBerry disclosed it. It wasn't discovered.
...We have the iOS 6.1 problems that saw battery drain and caused servers to overwork. Whether Apple likes it or not, Exchange is the dominant server in the workplace. There is no excuse for a version 6.X of anything making this type of mistake. There was relatively no noise about this. This affected potentially millions.
There are a lot of examples of this in the last few years. The service interruption that RIM went through in September of 2012 that saw a 7% drop of shares that day. This service interruption was for 3 hours, and affected a small percentage of their customers.
In December of last year, Google experienced an outage across many different services and almost nobody commented.
Samsung releases the Galaxy S4, having built up hype with eye scrolling and tracking, only to release it with head tracking instead. If this was BlackBerry, then there would have been much more media on the disappointment that seemed to disappear when it was Android and Samsung. The fact that Apple used a proprietary connecter, again, leaving behind millions of devices and already loyal users being forced to buy adapters or new devices. This would be chastised if it had been on the latest BlackBerry device. Instead, BlackBerry uses standard USB micro and micro HDMI, but gets no accolades.
Apple this year had their flagship device hacked and declined to respond to questions. How many could this potentially affect? How many people haven't heard about it?
When you follow the plight of one company as you struggle to make decisions for your own, you start to notice how biased the media, especially North American media, truly is.
Why is BlackBerry not being looked upon as the comeback kid? I own the Z10. It isn't perfect, but that title belongs to no smartphone past or current. It is better, in my eyes much better, than both iPhone and flagship Android devices. I have yet to notice any lag or slowdown with multiple email accounts, one BES and one POP, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBM, Text, Twitter, and notifications all present in the Hub. Speaking of the Hub, good luck finding anything out there that competes with the speed and efficiency of this structure.
I have had no battery issues getting a full day easily with regular use. I have an extra battery that I can slip into my pocket if I was ever running close. Construction is fantastic and after just one update, almost all quirks have been ironed out.
Still, we have naysayers about AT&T's (NYSE:T) launch, not realizing that BlackBerry has never been about the 6 block line ups. BlackBerry is more about the pre-ordered and work-ordered business that they have perfected over all previous generations. I have personally seen a lot of small businesses switching to the latest smartphone with complete love for the device. I have not heard one negative comment from over 15 people I know personally that have the Z10. All of them work in a business environment that stays connected with their staff.
In the past, media could control our overall opinion, as they were the conduit to our information. With the massive access to communication that we all have, I am hoping that people will see a high percentage of the reviews for what they are.
BlackBerry has a very strong group of 80,000,000 users. Those were the ones that hung on. They are fans not because of the apps. Not because of the aluminum and glass. Not because of the 12 MP camera. They are fans because of the structure. Because of the attention to the core concepts that a portable device of this importance should carry:
Ease of use.
BlackBerry has shown all of these. As to why North American media continues to be negative on this tested manufacturer? I am still baffled.
Do yourself a favor. Find someone that has a Z10 and ask them what they think. Then ask them to give you a 10 minute lesson in the core concepts.
Hub. Flow. Peek. Balance. (if they have that installed)
Feel the materials and how easy it is to hold. Type on the keyboard that learns to fix your mistakes and has been universally acknowledged as being the best touch keyboard on the market. See how easy it is to go from place to place and do the things you need a smartphone to do.
Do yourself that favor first before committing your money one way or another. The more people that see what a great device BlackBerry has designed, built, and distributed, the better the chance that we can have a feel good story that is truly deserved.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: My intention is to provide my opinions from within the IT industry and my views as the owner of an IT Support and Communications company. My first smartphone was a Windows based Treo and I currently use a BlackBerry Z10.