Well, we knew this day would come eventually. BlackBerry devices are going away.
...Well... some of them, at least, at some point...
They will continue to release updates for BB10, however, and Chen didn’t say anything about discontinuing current BB10 devices, so we can assume that those will be available for a while.
BlackBerry is also still planning to release more Android devices. The Priv, their first Android device, was released last year. Since it’s pretty expensive ($700) and not doing that well, they’re going to try some new cheaper Android devices this year.
Yet these Android devices might have a limited life, too, as Chen has said publicly several times that if BlackBerry couldn’t make their device business profitable, then they would get out if it.
Now, I want to ask a serious question here: For the small number of organizations that are still issuing users BlackBerry devices, what is their strategy going to be?
Migrating onto iOS and Android is certainly not uncharted territory, even for regulated industries. It’s been happening for years and so far the sky isn’t falling. If some organizations just happen to be slow moving and very conservative about making changes, so be it.
But what about organizations that haven’t migrated because they truly have a legitimate reason to avoid iOS and Android? This can’t be very many organizations at this point, but you know that somewhere, people are worrying about this.
These organizations could actually stick with BB10 devices for quite a while, considering that the OS will still be maintained, and BlackBerry hasn’t announced any plans to discontinue current BB10 devices.
They could also look into virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI), which is just like VDI or RDSH except with Android instead of Windows as the hosted OS. Yes, it’s still Android, but it can be highly modified and controlled in ways that it can’t be when running on an endpoint. The client devices also may be iOS or Android, but they can just act as thin clients with no local data, if desired.
If these organizations do decide to finally come to terms with iOS and Android devices, random who-knows-what Android devices are probably out of the picture, but there are plenty of other options.
BlackBerry’s Android phone has many security optimizations, though it doesn't have many certifications yet and they could also be discontinued at some point, so they might not the be the best option until their future status is more certain.
Many regulated organizations are now comfortable using Samsung Knox devices, and they have many security certifications and can be locked down completely. (BlackBerry is even working with Samsung on this.) iOS has Supervised mode and the Device Enrollment Program, which means that iPhones can be locked down quite a bit, too.
Or they can go with app-level management on top of managed iOS and Android devices for more layers of security. Now that Good Technology has been acquired by BlackBerry and more integration is planned, it could entice more BlackBerry device holdouts to make the switch.
BlackBerry’s next chapter
After years of people saying the end was imminent, having no more new BB10 devices is a significant juncture. However at this point it’s largely symbolic—it shouldn’t affect too many organizations, and those that are affected have many viable alternatives.
In the meantime, BlackBerry is continuing down the path of becoming a software and services company, most significantly with last year’s acquisition of Good Technology. When and if the device business is completely shuttered, the last bit of the old BB10 versus iOS and Android conflict will finally go away.
Like I said back when the acquisition happened, BlackBerry and Good are quite complementary and have a lot of potential together. But they’ll have to overcome a complicated legacy, including some intense and awkward past competition, and a rough exit for Good.
They have a lot of work to do. While some will lament the loss of new BB10 devices (and other overall device business, if and when that happens), this means more effort can be spent making the EMM and software business successful.