Many people know BlackBerry as the company behind the iconic range of mobile devices that were just as popular among regular consumers as the professionals for whom they were created.
However, BlackBerry has not been a company that has been producing hardware for more than fifty years. Although the firm licensed its brand to other manufacturers, it did not launch smartphone independently since 2016.
Instead, the modern BlackBerry is software and cybersecurity. The firm’s main source of revenue is a line of services that help protect mobile devices and various other endpoints, as well as software that provides rich functionality inside connected vehicles.
According to Sarah Tatsis, a manager who has spent more than twenty years at BlackBerry, the departure from the equipment was more natural than it may seem.
“There were quite a few problems because it was a big transition, but there were also a lot of opportunities,” she said TechRadar Pro.
“BlackBerry has always focused on cybersecurity from the beginning. We have always thought a lot about how to safely move data through our infrastructure. And this know-how is applied in a variety of spaces. “
Fall out of grace
This level of ubiquity was partly due to the quality and design of the devices – the Pearl, Curve and Bold series were hits – but also an exclusive service such as BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), access to which has become something of a status symbol.
BlackBerry should also be recognized for its role in moving forward remote work revolution. The company’s devices were among the first to allow users to view and respond to them emails on the go, which had the effect of untying professionals from them office computers.
It is often said that the advent of the iPhone in 2007 marked the end of BlackBerry devices, but the company was able to keep itself for a number of years after iOS and Android became famous. In other words, people were still happy with their BlackBerry hardware.
According to Tatis, the fall of the company was more related to software. The most significant mistake, she said, was BlackBerry’s inability to create a market for third-party apps such as the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
“The key issue was the lack of apps available on our devices compared to others at the time. We did not have the platform provided by a large application ecosystem, ”she explained.
In 2015, BlackBerry eventually switched its phones to Android to eliminate the lack of apps, but by then its competitors had benefited.
But there were other mistakes. For example, the company stubbornly clung to the physical keyboard for which it was best known, underestimating the flexibility of the touch screen and the cost of additional screen real estate.
BlackBerry has also insisted on maintaining its focus on the business market, despite the wide appeal of its devices. Although BlackBerry phones remained popular with businesses and government agencies, pressure from employees to support iOS and Android devices eventually forced IT departments.
Squeezed out of its core market by new players who have more clearly defined areas of opportunity, BlackBerry was left with no choice but to turn around.
The transition from hardware to security was the brainchild of John Chen, who took on the role of BlackBerry CEO in 2013.
When the company’s first exit from the hardware business was announced, Chen presented a tripartite strategy; BlackBerry will license its branding, embed its technology in non-BlackBerry smartphones, and expand its software to help protect the growing number of IoT endpoints.
As it turned out, the third of these goals became the basis for the new look of the BlackBerry. Following the acquisition of security company Cylance, known for the quality of its artificial intelligence solutions, in 2019 BlackBerry with even greater conviction put its weight on the cybersecurity business.
He also manages the threat intelligence operation, which analyzes the development of threats since the last malware the strain of state-funded espionage. BlackBerry says the goal is to maintain an up-to-date picture of the types of threats from which its software should be protected, and to collaborate with the security ecosystem to support common goals.
Although Tatsis has held many roles over the past two decades at BlackBerry, her most recent position is as senior vice president of IVY platform development in the IoT segment. She explained that apart from security services, she focuses on “creating core software that allows endpoints to be secure and scalable.”
The most famous offering of the IoT segment is the BlackBerry QNX, which is now built into nearly 200 million connected vehicles such as BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes and Ford. The platform provides a variety of functionalities: from safety and driver assistance systems to infotainment programs, car speakers and more.
The IVY platform operates in a similar space, “focusing on ensuring that automotive OEMs can bring new experiences to the market for customers,” says Tatisis.
Developed in conjunction with AWS and currently in early access, IVY connects to various sensors in the vehicle (e.g., seat sensors, optical sensors, battery management systems, etc.) and then connects the collected data to machine learning algorithms. generating an understanding that helps communicate the driving experience.
For example, IVY is able to use a combination of data channels to pinpoint who is in the machine, knowledge that opens up a wide range of possibilities.
“If I have an understanding that Sarah drives a car, I can send that understanding into an app that can provide a personal driving experience,” Tatis explained. “This could include playing Sarah’s favorite music, adapting the projected range based on her driving style and more.”
In another hypothetical scenario, IVY may detect that children are present in the car, and push the driver to activate the child lock system. Realizing that there are multiple passengers in the car, IVY can also send a flag that allows the vehicle to use high-lane vehicle (HOV) lanes.
It’s easy to look back at BlackBerry’s legacy on a mobile phone and wonder how the company ended up here, but there remains a thread that connects these recent searches to its origins: an emphasis on security.
Performing calculations on the edge and transferring only abstract ideas in cloudIVY is able to minimize the impact of personal data and lay the foundation for the next generation with security.
Who still needs equipment?
Few companies have undergone such a complete identity change as BlackBerry. And even fewer managed to do it successfully.
Although BlackBerry has been forced to abandon the hardware business due to failure to meet opportunities, Tatsis believes the company is now in an ideal position to make money in the direction of traffic.
Given that the number of IoT devices and connected vehicles is expected to continue to expand at an aggressive pace, both cybersecurity and enhanced new functionality will be at the top of the agenda, she believes.
“As the number of endpoints and sensors grows significantly, so does the risk in terms of cybersecurity and privacy,” Tatis told us. “In order for these endpoints to be able to get the innovation and great experience that we expect, it is very important that they can work safely.”
“We are very happy where we are going as a business. It’s all about helping to innovate and build solutions that help people and businesses stay safe and productive. These two key areas of IoT and cybersecurity are really what will be needed in the future for many of these endpoints. ”