The Blackberry Classic: Function over Flash for Enterprise Clients

by Matt Klassen on December 19, 2014

As the name Blackberry Classic implies, the latest phone from the once great Canadian smartphone company is a retro throwback to better days and brighter times, when people loved the QWERTY keyboard and the world had just discovered fire (well maybe not that far back). But despite Blackberry’s desperation to recover the glory days of a bygone era, this old phone turned new may actually strike a chord with the market Blackberry is hoping to once again make an impact in: the enterprise sector.

While the release event for the Blackberry Classic had some of the same trimmings you would expect with any smartphone release, the subdued tone of the event, the glossing over of the Classic’s features, and the inordinate amount of time spent drumming of the smartphone’s enterprise software capabilities all meant one thing: this phone isn’t for you or I, it’s for that beleaguered IT professional looking to secure his company’s vulnerable network against BYOD vulnerabilities.

For those still scratching theirs heads about Blackberry’s latest retro product development though, let me say that the course moving forward from here is finally clear: transform the company from a device based manufacturer to a software and mobile services firm, attract an enterprise market mired in the BYOD security fiasco, and finally upgrade those users who are still clinging to their legacy Blackberry devices.

While such a strategy may not have the flash of an Apple release, there’s no question that once again Blackberry firmly has a destination in mind…whether this new direction will yield positive revenue results however, well that’s another question entirely.

Granted it’s nothing more that the Blackberry Bold with a new OS and a “little more power,” but the Blackberry Classic is important for this struggling firm in a number of ways. First, the Classic stands as evidence that the company isn’t focused on devices anymore, but instead is taking an approach based on services and features, evidenced by the company’s bolstered mobile security solutions, its release of BBM on other platforms, and the creation of its mobile device management platform, BES 12. These things are the future of Blackberry, meaning the company’s devices will be geared solely towards functionality and features, not towards physical appearance or consumer expectations.

Second, it’s clear that this transformation has one market in mind: enterprise. Over the last year the most press we’ve seen out of Blackberry has been surrounding the security missteps of its more popular consumer oriented rivals Apple and Samsung. As the BYOD movement continues to proliferate companies are again seeing the value in providing employees their own business mobile solutions, and Blackberry is aiming both the Classic and the Passport to be the default choice.

Third, there still exists a sizeable market of people clinging to their legacy Blackberry phones, the ones that helped the company achieve its previous success, who appreciate their Blackberry devices not for their looks or features, but for their security and functionality. It’s these people, Chen has made clear, who are squarely in the sights of the Blackberry Classic marketing campaign. Here’s the phone you’ve always loved, just a little better.

While I can’t call it innovation (as Chen has done) and while I still think Blackberry’s phones are as ugly as ever, I can’t help but think that if Blackberry is going to ever succeed again, this is the road it needs to take. By producing the Classic, Blackberry is sending a clear message: We don’t care what our phone looks like, we just care what it does and that it can do it securely. The Classic gives us that, and I’d be surprised if the enterprise market wasn’t lining up around the block to get its collective hands on phones like this.

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