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BlackBerry open letter to customers is long on cliches

John Cox | Dec. 3, 2013
An "open letter" from BlackBerry's interim CEO, John Chen, to "enterprise customers and partners" is filled with wishful thinking, unfounded promises and a wealth of clichés. But without actions, the reassuring words -- if anything -- underline BlackBerry's precarious future.

"We have more certifications from government agencies than any other vendor and we're the only EMM vendor and handset maker to receive the Department of Defense Authority to Operate' certification," Chen says. The implication seems to be that if the DoD "certifies" BlackBerry, every other enterprise should trust that as an endorsement, and choose BlackBerry to get the same level of security. Except that the vast majority of companies simply don't need DoD-level security. And considering how easily Edward Snowden stole secrets from the National Security Agency, maybe we should question the value of all those government agency "certifications."

"Governments, global corporations and organizations that will not compromise on security continue to choose and trust BlackBerry," Chen says. To some degree, this is true, though the probably unintentional implication is that if you are not trusting BlackBerry, then you are compromising your security.

Mobile security for many enterprises is a matter of degree, increasingly depending on an employee's role or job, and role-based permissions and security enforcement.

Chen reiterates that BlackBerry is "more than just a device company." It's central asset, he suggests, as BES10 is a foundation for enterprise mobility that encompasses devices with different operating systems, as well as the still-emerging area of mobile application management.

But put that way, it's clear that BlackBerry is just as new to the current mobile market as its "small VC-funded" rivals. Multiple operating systems, large numbers of devices, different device types, mobile apps, and mobile data are all emerging challenges for the enterprise. In many of these areas, BlackBerry has only its incumbency to tout as an advantage.' Enterprise customers will want to see more than that.

"John Chen is a strong leader but I think he needs more time, probably six months, to really know where to take this company," says Gartner's Dulaney. "So any announcements at this stage are really efforts to quiet the customer base and not to have them panic to move off. I don't think we know very much from this letter at this point."


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