Blackberry Acquires Crisis Communications Firm AtHoc

by Matt Klassen on July 23, 2015

As difficult as things have been for Blackberry, the company has made one thing clear: it’s going to do everything it can, use every resource it has, and dedicate every ounce of energy it can muster into recreating the firm into a mobile software and data management solutions provider.

To that end, Blackberry announced on Wednesday that it will acquire privately held AtHoc, a company that specializes in providing crisis communication solutions to large companies and government agencies. AtHoc’s specialized services allow clients to maintain communication throughout emergencies.

So what exactly does a company like AtHoc bring to Blackberry? Large scale customers for one, such as the US Department of Defence and US Department of Homeland Security, as well as a number of private and public businesses; the sorts of clients this rebuilt Blackberry wants to focus on.

But I have to wonder if Blackberry is trying to become everything for everyone in the enterprise market, as we have yet to see a comprehensive plan for its seemingly disparate acquisitions.

“AtHoc is an alerts system, but it also needs richer content and that can be provided by BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which offers not just text, but voice, picture and video sharing, so we can provide a much richer experience to their clients,” BlackBerry CEO John Chen told Reuters in a recent interview.

AtHoc’s unique crisis communications solutions allows clients to maintain communication continuity when normal channels may be unavailable, an invaluable tool when critical infrastructure and/or emergency response services need to communicate and collaborate to save lives in the midst of a crisis.

Further, Blackberry’s BBM service will add much needed channel diversity to AtHoc, allowing top-level government and business personnel, for example, to maintain face-to-face video communication throughout large-scale emergencies.

“BlackBerry is focused on enhancing our capabilities in security, privacy and the Internet of Things,” BlackBerry Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard said in an interview posted on a BlackBerry blog. “We’re making the move to acquire AtHoc, because we knew we could take a government-grade, secure software platform meant for crisis communication and enhance it with our current enterprise portfolio and trusted global network. And when we unite BlackBerry’s experience and innovation with AtHoc’s expertise and technology, we’ll be able to deliver new solutions for safety, security and mission-critical business communications.”

While one doesn’t have to look far to see the value in an acquisition like AtHoc, what I have yet to see is a comprehensive plan for Blackberry going forward. As it stands Blackberry seems to be dabbling in a wide-range of enterprise mobile solutions, from enterprise data security, to secure black-ops mobile projects, to document management, and while I can see the value of all those things for enterprise clients, the growing diversity of Blackberry’s portfolio is transforming the firm into a veritable mobile Jack of all trades, destined once again to be the King of none of them.

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