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BlackBerry and Dell look to switch target markets

08 Feb 2013
V3's Madeline Bennett

Within the space of a week, two major players in the technology sector have announced major changes they hope will help their organisations reinvent 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, 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 involved 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 to become a end-to-end enterprise IT provider, along the lines of an IBM or an Oracle.

In a letter posted on the Dell website on Friday, chief executive and company founder 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 BlackBerry 10 and the more minor name change, the Canadian smartphone maker is hoping to turn around its flagging fortunes, disassociating itself from the old RIM brand and relying on the stronger BlackBerry moniker. Along with the totally overhauled OS comes 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 indicator for me is 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 current operations and the woes that befell RIM – the outages, the encryption saga, the hapless chief 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 week’s Super Bowl. But while 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 Enterprise Server product, but these may dwindle if the firm focuses on consumer advertising and doesn't highlight new and innovative features it’s adding for business users. It must be hoping consumer interest alone will see the devices find their way in to the enterprise.

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Madeline Bennett

Madeline Bennett is editor of V3 and The INQUIRER. Previously, she was editor of IT Week. Prior to becoming a journalist, Madeline was an English teacher at a London secondary school. Madeline is a regular technology commentator on TV and radio, including Sky, BBC and CNN. 

View Madeline's Google+ profile

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