A Look at Blackberry’s Possible Embrace of Android (and why it might be a bad thing)

by Matt Klassen on June 22, 2015

Last week the news broke that Blackberry may be considering deploying Google’s Android operating system on its next Blackberry device, a strategy consistent with the company’s recent shift away from a mobile hardware business towards a device and data management and software oriented firm.

Although Blackberry has yet to comment on the rumours regarding its possible embrace of a second mobile OS, one reason why Blackberry may want to consider adopting Android is to help sell the device management capabilities of its forthcoming BES 12 management platform, one that purportedly will have cross-platform management capabilities, allowing enterprise clients to manage devices running any number of mobile operating systems.

But BES 12 marketing possibilities aside, there stand several good reasons why Blackberry shouldn’t adopt Android going forward, notably that it will offer little in the way of increased sales, and without the possibility of strong sales, history has shown us adopting a multiple OS model may be more headache than it’s worth.

As I wrote last week, the prevailing opinion regarding the possibility of Blackberry adopting Android on its forthcoming smartphone is that it could stand as a strong example of interoperability between disparate mobile platforms, an example that Blackberry will then be able to show its potential enterprise clients.

While Blackberry’s mobile hardware business has continued to flag, it seems as though CEO John Chen is betting big on the company’s new BES 12 management platform. As E-Commerce Times writer Peter Suciu explains, the platform “allows corporate and government clients to manage not only BlackBerry devices on internal networks, but also devices running Android, iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS.”

Simply put, the company’s own Blackberry 10 OS has never really caught on, but not because it’s not a great platform, it has just never had the scale to compete with the likes of Android and iOS. By adopting Android it could potentially open new doors to Blackberry, helping the company deliver the “Blackberry Experience” to a wider audience.

“This could open the door for more devices that run BES12, and at the same this could allow users to get Android apps on a BlackBerry device,” said Ramon Llamas, research manager for wearables and mobile phones at IDC.

But even if all this is true, unless Blackberry is actually willing to abandon its own Blackberry 10 platform in favour of trying to port its unique user experience to Android, there are a good reasons why the company should avoid this sort of project altogether. First, Blackberry’s embrace of Android comes far too late in the game to make any different for the company’s flagging hardware business. Even if the company does make an Android phone, it likely won’t be a big seller and won’t restore the firm to its former glory.

Second, and more importantly, I can’t think of a firm who has successfully managed two different operating systems effectively. Sure Samsung is still juggling Android and Tizen (but I would argue not effectively), but by in large history has shown that any multiple OS strategy simply adds to a company’s problems.

As Llamas explains regarding managing two operating systems, “This just means there are more resources to manage, and security is another is another issue. Past attempts have shown that multiple OS is not the way to go. Palm tried with Palm, Windows and webOS; Nokia had Symbian and Windows — and it didn’t help either company. So Android may not be the solution for BlackBerry.”

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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