If you were driving down the street and you saw a motorcycle go by with only one wheel and the driver compensating for it by popping a wheelie, you'd know that at some point, they're going to crash. Blackberry has been that one wheeled rider for years, and we've been critical of them before, especially in the book Digital or Death, but things are starting to change.
Blackberry has finally thrown in the towel on its proprietary past and figured out they're not going to be able to compete in the real smartphone market alone. Because no one cares enough to build them apps. Sure, there are some apps out there, but Blackberry users don't get the really good stuff. There was news last year that Blackberry users were able to access Android apps, but on February 19th, 2015 it was announced that a major software update would allow the entire suite of Blackberry 10 devices to access Android apps. It was also announced on February 25th, 2015 that Blackberry is working with Google directly on securing devices equipped with Android for work. This was no routine announcement.
We all know that Blackberry has some very intelligent people, innovative back-end solutions, and some very valuable patents, but what they don't have is great design innovation. They are trying to enter a design contest with a Yugo that has a twin turbo V-12. Meaning... a heck of a lot under the hood but you definitely don't want to drive it around, because it's ugly and no fun because the rest of the car can't really utilize all that power. Blackberry needs a player like Google to acquire them and make them a force again, and quite frankly, sexy.
It also makes sense for Google, and in fact, perfect sense. Google is trying to raid Microsoft's fortress in the office and productivity environment, and if Google can crank up their security and device management, they start making it easy for I.T. Directors to take the plunge and move everything to Google's business platform. For all of you that don't know, Google's business platform is starting to make some serious gains. Price Waterhouse Coopers has migrated a chunk of their 185,000 employees to Google's business platform and when the advisory people take the plunge for their own needs, it's probably time to start listening. They're not the only ones. Companies like Fuji, Jaguar, Roche, Salesforce.com, Virgin America, and lot of other giants are moving to Google as well.
Google is raiding Microsoft's fortress in the office space and might just pull it off with Blackberry's help.
Another reason this could be a marriage made in cyber heaven is, Google would get a treasure chest full of patents and device management they need. A good article by Susan Decker from Bloomberg goes into a bit more depth about the patents here, and she is slanted more towards Apple acquiring them but we also have to consider that Microsoft might be a player as well. Bidding war?
Speaking of patents, it would be very interesting to see how Google would license the tactile keyboard for Android devices. If you took a poll and asked former Blackberry users the one thing they really miss, it'll be the same answer every time... the keyboard. Blackberry has that patent locked up pretty tight and that would open up some interesting negotiations with smartphone makers like Samsung, LG, Huawei, Lenovo, etc... This also allows Blackberry to move behind the screen and do what it does best. On the surface it seems obvious that together, the sum is greater than its ugly and sexy parts. (We're talking about the buyout here, so stay focused.)
A downside caution is required: If Google bought Blackberry, they may need to keep them at a distance as they might start taking a bit of heat from the other smartphone manufacturers that are using Android (think of their quick buy and sell of Motorola). However, Google would have a lot more to offer those other phone makers to try and offset concerns.
Licenses, patents, a keyboard that people miss, and a touch of heritage is there for the taking and Google, Apple, and Microsoft have the cash needed to buy Blackberry in the coin jar in their closets. The question is, do they feel like Blackberry is worth cracking it open for?
About the Author:
This article was written by Dominic Mazzone, Managing Partner and Fund Manager of Smashbox Consulting.
This article and other like it can be viewed at SmashBox Consulting Website