Friday, April 02, 2010

Blackberry's Beachhead Strategy

Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Let your mind relax.

Oh sorry, no, I wasn't trying to teach you yoga or meditation. Far from it. I am thinking Blackberry. A piece of device which keeps you strangled to your workplace. The Email Phone.

But yes, do close your eyes and think about Blackberry and tell me if you see what I see. A phone that comes only in Black color. Think about people who use it. You will visualize corporate executives fiddling with it, running their thumb quite stylishly on the side of the phone. Like Aladdin would do to the magic lamp. Voila, like the Genie, comes your official emails. Think about the ads. It was functional. No, I mean the ads were good but the message was focused on functionality. Oh I also see a slightly beautiful Curve. But yes, again in black. Oh, I can also see Lewis Hamilton. Was that iPHONE? No, that was Blackberry trying to do iPHONE. That was black, too.

If you have used it, you will notice that the UI is hardly any great. It is not bad, though. I am not sure how many owners use it to browse the internet. My guess is hardly anyone.

As my colleague, Deepak Chopra rightly puts it - Blackberry is an office phone! It is not a phone one buys. It is often pushed down your throat by your employer so that they can keep you tied to work even when you are not in office through the end of your thumb.

This Research In Motion's technology marvel was also in a true sense a real convergent device. It allowed Voice and Data to work seamlessly on one single piece. Though data here largely meant - official mails.

So the recent ad campaign of Blackberry took me by little surprise. Black wasn’t missing but there was Whiteberry, sorry white Blackberry. And it wasn't about email, the ad featured youngsters accessing social networking sites. Then I heard a radio jingle which mentioned many features that would entice the social networking addicted youth.

Yes, these are all signs that Blackberry now wants to go mainstream! And I must say that it was inevitable. There were only two options for RIM - be a chimp by becoming better email phone or aim to be a guerilla. And it chose wisely to be a guerilla. Or at least, attempt to be one. But before I try to predict whether it would be successful or not, it would be good to analyze this situation from theoretical point of view. And where else to turn, but to Geoffrey A Moore!

Crossing the ChasmMy obsession with Geoff Moore seems never ending. Someone who has followed his work will be able to see that RIM was intelligent in adopting a beachhead strategy in the mobile industry. For non-starters, this strategy evolved from the Allied Forces' attack on the Normandy Beach in the final attempt to over throw Hitler's regime during the Second World War. Allied Forces instead of spreading its attack thin chose Normandy in France as their entry point to Europe that was virtually controlled by the German Forces. And the rest is history.

RIM segmented its market pretty well; it chose a market whose requirements were unique and unmet. As its technology enabled access to emails much faster than the rest, it chose to serve the Corporate World. And not just anybody in the Corporate World. It became the preferred device of the top executives who traveled a lot and whose lifeline was emails.

Over a period of time, despite coming in one single color like Ford's T-model, Blackberry has built a reputation of its own and definitely become an object of desire. It has come to denote power and position one holds in an organization. However one may rant about Blackberry eating into one’s personal life, it definitely beats Nokia's Vertu in terms of being an aspirational product. This despite the fact that Vertu has precious stones and metals embedded.

But in the technology world things change at a much faster pace than one would imagine. Apple that was riding on its iPOD's success, decided to enter the mobile market through iPHONE. And through iPHONE, it gave jitters to Nokia, the largest mobile phone company in the world. While tumbling the pins in the mobile phone market, it has started eating into Blackberry's protected market. If you are a lowly mortal, like me, mailing to your boss from laptop or PC, you would have noticed that he promptly replies to you and there would be a small line after his signature stating that 'this mail has been sent from Blackberry'. But oft late, you must have seen some sprinkles of 'this mail has been sent using iPHONE'.

Apple is certainly giving jitters to everyone. And that is why I said that Blackberry had only two choices - protect its existing turf, which would have become more and more difficult, or fight a war and expand its territory.

So, Blackberry decides to follow its own bowling pin strategy. Blackberry's association with email is very strong. Email means internet. And internet is going strong. Adoption of mobile phone is happening much faster and it surely is going to displace the PC/laptop market. That is the technology trend. The other trend is consumers’ behavior. Today, Social Networking is a way of life. Twitter, Facebook and the likes are our communication tools. Mobile phones being the device of the generation, Blackberry naturally is positioning itself as the device for youngsters. Proof? Look at the ads and the message.

But in my opinion, mobile phones may also not be the future. To me the iPAD and Kindle seem more like it. But I wouldn't be surprised that the real convergence happens somewhere in the middle. Yes, and that will be the most convenient to users.

So, can we expect an iBERRY? My guess is a big YES!


Noufal said...

Dude...Blackberry has been in the mainstream for a couple of years now. If you look at Blackberry Storm...its a complete touch screen device with a lot of apps vying to be a iPhone killer. That was failed in the attempt....Its gotta be content staying a gadget related to work and probably thats where its going to lead the market if they get their act together...

Sonia John Markose said...

Hey, you seem to be good at naming tech stuffs. i liked the name iBerry:) Hope you will bapticize more products with stunning names like eMEND:)