John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

BlackBerry’s “New” Strategy: Mobile First

BB_engineBlackBerry lost the mobile world it once ruled in a matter of years. Now, under new CEO Thorsten Heins, it hopes to reclaim it in an equally short time. But how? According to Heins’s remarks during his BlackBerry Live keynote this morning, by “building for mobile first.”

As a pioneering mobile device company, one would think that “mobile first” is a redundant call to arms for BlackBerry. And of course it is. By making that remark, Heins was offering a broader point about BlackBerry’s view of the mobile space. As he said later, “We believe in a single element of mobile computing: The one on your hip.”

It’s BlackBerry’s view that the smartphone is not simply a handset, but also a mobile computing engine that can drive the other devices we use during our daily lives — our entertainment systems, the tech in our cars and other connected peripherals. And it’s Heins’s opinion that there will soon be another disruption in mobile computing as the industry more broadly adopts that view.

“Mobile has become a fundamental part of our lives, and the next decade will see a major shift in how it impacts our lives,” Heins said. “It will be as monumental as the shift from wired to wireless.”

And BlackBerry is positioning itself to take advantage of it. Said Heins, “We will show the world that BlackBerry understands the mobile world better than anyone else.”

Big talk for a company still struggling to turn itself around. But that’s what these keynote events are all about — victory laps and optimism. And after a few years of floundering, BlackBerry does finally seem to be crystallizing its view of the space in which it competes and how best to succeed in it.

“Drilling down from desktop experiences and trying to fit them in the mobile space just doesn’t work,” Heins said. “People don’t want the desktop experience in a mobile device. Mobile devices need a mobile experience. Putting the desktop paradigm on them doesn’t work. Our only focus is mobile. We are the original mobile-first company.”

So that’s the big pitch. And now that Heins has made it, BlackBerry has to begin the difficult work of delivering on it. A daunting task when Apple and Google continue to so thoroughly dominate the mobile computing space. But BlackBerry has managed to hang on this long after the upheaval of 2012. Who’s to say it won’t scramble back.

“Some people told me last year that BlackBerry World would be the company’s last conference and my first and last time on the stage,” Heins said. “Well, I’m happy to say they were wrong. Not only are we still here, we are firing on all cylinders and we are definitely in the race.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik