Who Will Fill the BlackBerry Void?

In the world of enterprise and small businesses, BlackBerry is a legend.

These handhelds predate the days of iOS and Android and were a true executive staple. No other device of the time could provide the suite of features it offered: messaging office counterparts, checking email at a moment’s notice, and of course, making calls.

How times have changed. Today, BlackBerry is in its death throes. Once an icon of the corporate world, this much-loved smartphone is now making its exit. According to a recent report, BlackBerry’s market share has fallen below one percent in the United States and close to zero percent in China. T-Mobile is no longer stocking the brand in its stores.

So, which device is going to step in to fill this void?

There are two key areas in which BlackBerry still excels: secure enterprise messaging and mobile device management. And even with the rising popularity of BYOD among iPhones and Android, it’s unlikely that Apple or Google will step into the corporate messaging world to same extent as BlackBerry has, in part due to the wild popularity of their consumer products.

But three large players remain: Lenovo, Microsoft and Samsung. And it’s the Windows Phone platform that seems poised to step into the enterprise gap vacated by BlackBerry. Exchange messaging, Lync, and ActiveSync go hand-in-hand with Windows Phone devices, as Microsoft looks to exploit its strong enterprise business profile into mobile (while perhaps pivoting from its mediocre consumer mobile business). And while Samsung is best known for its Android line, the company continues to make Windows Phones, leaving the potential for secure messaging across operating systems.

Lenovo is a key player in the business market with aspirations to enter the North American and European mobile arenas. But what operating system will their future devices run in these regions? In China, Lenovo smartphones have used Android, however, the operating system is an unlikely candidate in these other markets as the company will want its device’s operating system to bring unique value to those customers. One possibility would be to acquire BlackBerry in whole or in part to utilize the familiar OS. Jason Perlow of ZDNet, however, thinks this scenario is unlikely.

QNX is a carrier-grade RTOS, and neither the Canadian nor the US governments will want that falling into the hands of a Chinese company,” Perlow writes. “The same can be said for BES and the BlackBerry NOCs, which will have too many data encryption export and data governance issues to allow a Chinese firm to possess those assets.”

Meanwhile, the “life after BlackBerry” question is about to become a reality. Since 2011, BlackBerry has eliminated more than 7,000 positions worldwide. The company has also retreated from its consumer business to focus on its enterprise product. This has been tough news for the company’s loyal fans. Some longtime BlackBerry fans have even indicated that they would spend thousands of dollars for the Q10 device. But 2013 was rough for BlackBerry, and 2014 is not showing signs of being any different.

“For someone who’s been using a BlackBerry for five years straight, the various tricks of the interface have become second nature,” wrote Russell Brandom for the Verge. This familiarity may provide at least a modicum of value for BlackBerry’s business assets, which may eventually lead to the company being acquired by a future or existing player in the mobile market.

Enterprise organizations may find themselves venturing into unfamiliar territory sooner rather than later. So who do you think will step into BlackBerry’s shoes? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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