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Blackberry and Dell want to switch markets

Column Dell wants business customers, while Blackberry goes after consumers
Fri Feb 08 2013, 18:04
V3 and The INQUIRER editor Madeline Bennett

WITHIN THE SPACE OF A WEEK, two major players in the information technology industry announced major changes that they hope will help their organisations reinvent themselves and survive in the age of IT consumerisation, bring your own device and cloud computing.

One is Dell, which undertook a $24bn buyout to take the firm private this week; the other is the company formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM), now reborn as simply Blackberry, which launched its overhauled Blackberry 10 operating system last week.

In case you've missed all the excitement, here are the salient points of Dell's and Blackberry's future plans.

Dell's leveraged buyout, which involves Silver Lake Partners and a $2bn loan from Microsoft, is intended to allow the company to move out of the public and shareholder spotlight and refocus on becoming a end-to-end enterprise IT provider, along the lines of IBM or Oracle.

In a letter posted on the Dell website on Friday, company founder and CEO Michael Dell explained that "secure, easy to manage, end-to-end solutions from the cloud to the datacentre to devices remain at the core of our value proposition", adding that Dell wants to focus on "delivering a fantastic customer experience and creating value for your organisation".

With the major launch of the Blackberry 10 mobile operating system and the more minor name change, the Canadian smartphone maker is hoping to turn around its flagging fortunes, disassociating the firm from the old RIM brand and relying on the stronger Blackberry moniker.

Along with the totally overhauled OS come two new devices, the iPhone-like Z10 and the upcoming Q10, which is more of a traditional Blackberry with a full Qwerty keyboard and small touchscreen above.

So how likely is either firm to succeed in its intentions? The key indicators for me are the firms' target markets and messaging around the changes.

The Blackberry name change in itself isn't exactly imaginative and is unlikely to have much impact on the firm's chances of success. Most of its customers, both business and consumer, were probably unfamiliar with the RIM name and only thought of Blackberry anyway.

However, it can't hurt Blackberry to put as much space as possible between its ongoing operations and the woes that befell RIM - the outages, the encryption saga, the hapless executives.

But what stands out here is the discrepancy between Blackberry's target audience and who is actually using its devices. As many have pointed out, the Z10 is very iPhone-like in its look and feel, and the firm is clearly going after the broad consumer market with adverts for the device appearing in places like commuter paper Metro and during last weekend's Super Bowl.

But while Blackberry Messenger (BBM) was the craze with teenagers for a few years, they've long since moved on to Apple and Android, and the firm must remember that it actually achieved its initial success by going after one clear goal - being the de-facto enterprise mobile device.

There are still plenty of enterprise customers using Blackberry due to its Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) product, but these will soon dwindle away now that the firm isn't doing as much to highlight the innovative features it's adding for business users and persuade its corporate customers to stick with BES.


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