I’m very excited to hear the rumour that Blackberry will be releasing an Alexa-enabled product. It could potentially breath new life into the company and help it stay relevant.
I have a lot of nostalgia for BB. My Blackberry Curve was a big purchase for me when I was starting off and I was an expert at Brick Breaker. Writing emails was a breeze there was never dullness because of the ease of Internet connectivity. BB put up a great fight after the iPhone came out but it didn’t move fast enough into the consumer space or create a real developer market.
While it continue to put out phones, its purchase of QNX cemented the move. When I was working for Quanser, we had been promoting QNX for realtime control and high speed data acquisition. QNX being a high availability version of Linux, it can prioritize processes and you can reliably run mechatronic systems on it at 40,000 samples per second (and even up to 100 KHz) without issue. This was great for haptic applications.
Over the years since the QNX application, BB doubled down on making QNX secure and as a result, a viable OS for automotive and industrial machinery that needed reliability and security. The same messaging in the mobile OS space didn’t hold up because Apple, Samsung, and other phone makers were also becoming as secure with their software.
In the consumer IoT space, security and reliability is a green field. Security is still considered an afterthought and while devices are more reliable, there’s still a element of flakiness in many products. For voice first products, there’s risk that third party implementations of voice assistants could be compromised much more easily than hardware made by Apple, Google, or Amazon. In the consumer space, the risk is embarrassment (at least for the time being in North America, elsewhere it’s being outed for anti-government sentiment).
With the push of services like Alexa for Business, third party hardware offers up much more risk. First, there’s eavesdropping on meetings and gaining trade secrets that could cost the company revenue loss or the loss of opportunity. Then, there’s HR concerns that the company has compromised the privacy of its employees by allowing for bad actors to record them. The stakes are high and there’s money to add security.
This is where BB has its advantage. If it can create voice first devices that are secure and incorporate its enterprise device management IP into a product, it could leapfrog others who are slower to embrace Alexa in business products (I’m thinking ClearOne, Mitel, Cisco, etc.). Even if it doesn’t win over business with cool applications, BB is bound to get sales by eliciting nostalgia in clients.