BlackBerry board member says becoming a "niche" player is key to survival

By on September 2, 2013, 2:30 PM
blackberry, sony ericsson, smartphone, bbm, mobile computing

As part of BlackBerry’s ongoing restructuring effort, the company has assembled a five-person team to decide the future of the firm. One such member is Bert Nordberg, the former CEO of Sony Ericsson, who successfully pulled his corporation out of bankruptcy and now looks to do the same for the Canadian-based firm. His strategy is to forgo the larger ambitions of catching up to Apple and Google, and to simply survive as a “niche” player.

According to an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Nordberg believes that BlackBerry still has several assets at its disposal, most notably its reputation in the enterprise, NSA-proof security, a leading worldwide data network, and a premium QWERTY keyboard. The company is in no way the mobile market leader that it was half a decade ago, but if it can stick to its strengths and avoid lofty goals, it still has a fighting chance.

With Sony Ericsson, Nordberg was thrust into a very difficult situation. The company was focusing on low-end mobile phones, and was admittedly doing very poorly in this realm. One of Nordberg’s very first moves was to scrap this strategy altogether and build a smartphone line around Google’s emerging Android operating system. Although Sony Ericsson didn’t exactly become an industry leader as a result of this decision, it allowed them to remain competitive.

Unfortunately, Nordberg points out that BlackBerry can’t just look to Android to turn its fortunes around. “With BlackBerry things are definitely much harder. Blackberry's security framework is built into the mobile software, so you can't just decide to change operating systems,” explained Nordberg. “But BlackBerry has cash and it has no debt, so I'm sure that we'll piece something together at the end of the day."

Of course, BlackBerry has yet to decide which plan of action it will actually take. Available options include anything from strategic partnership to a complete sale of the company. Just a week ago, BlackBerry was considering spinning off its popular BBM messaging service into a stand-alone company; a move that still isn’t out of the question.

Image via AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis




User Comments: 5

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JC713 JC713 said:

I guess this is their last chance... not sure if this niche strategy will work out.

1 person liked this | St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

As long as Apple remains relevant, you can't afford to be 'niche'. The sheep mentality most definitely exists (inb4 flamewar). BB needs to be a 'very good alternative' before it can decide to take a small portion of its products and divulge into the niche area.

Or, go all-in. Make one hell of a niche product that will make or break.

psycros psycros said:

As long as Apple remains relevant, you can't afford to be 'niche'. The sheep mentality most definitely exists (inb4 flamewar). BB needs to be a 'very good alternative' before it can decide to take a small portion of its products and divulge into the niche area.

Or, go all-in. Make one hell of a niche product that will make or break.

That second option is the *only* option. There's no competing with entrenched ecosystems, particularly when they have twenty times your budget. My gut feeling is that Blackberry has one year to turn it around. They need to completely toss the gesture-based UI mistake. If I had the management's ear I'd be screaming for them to bring back the trackpad and the physical front control buttons (or add virtual ones that are easily invoked at any time). Start making top-quality devices that don't cut corners. Release a truly rugged BB with Gorilla Glass. Give us a new Torch-style device that doesn't compromise on specs. And for heaven's sake, advertise intelligently! Push your phones as the do-it-all, no compromise solution: its a messaging monster with a cross-platform solution built right in; it runs legacy and OS 10 Blackberry apps as well as most Android ones; enjoy full multimedia capability to rival anything on the market; get more done with maximum battery life...see what I mean? And it goes without saying that Blackberries need to be price-competitive with other devices packing similar specs. They've finally put the Z10 and Q10 where they should have been at launch, but the un-usable UI makes it irrelevant. Get busy, Blackberry - you've got a year.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

They're between a rock & a hard place. I only hope they can pull off whatever they're planning.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I think if they can corner the right niche market(s) they can pull themselves out of the tail spin they are in. Also agree that they need to advertise more. I don't know if I have ever see an ad for them. Brag up their unique capabilities and made a bullet proof phone we a good OS

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