BlackBerry's turnaround relies on a secret weapon: Its own network

The NOC nobody wanted is actually quite useful

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Our secret weapon: a network

We outlined the range of new goodies here – a long list – and it is striking how many use the unfashionable NOC in some small but important way. BBM Meetings simplifies the cumbersome steps required to set up or join a conference call (voice or video with screen-sharing) into one or two simple steps. This uses standard calendaring software on the client. The NOC allows "push" notifications to be sent to the participant and opens up the secure channel. It isn’t hard to imagine interest for this for execs visiting China – where eavesdropping is routine. BlackBerry is pricing it aggressively, at $12.50 per user per month.

Similarly, the new BlackBerry VPN is much more power efficient than a keep-alive VPN, because it can use push from the NOC, so the phone itself is the token. It also uses the NOC for security, “as a bouncer at the front door”. And owning a network means the enterprise’s app catalogue can be pushed down. And thanks the NOC, authentication via the new VPN Authentication offering is a simple Yes or No choice for the user.

It’s handy having your own network.

The virtual SIM, acquired with Movirtu, is another useful and well-implemented feature. It separates voice and data traffic on single SIM devices into two virtual devices, each with their own bills. Switching between them is trivially easily on an Android device, via one tap on the Notifications shade. It operates at the switching level and is completely transparent to the user.

But will the numbers add up?

The question is whether enterprises will be lured by the offerings, which represent marginal income – a few dollars per user here and there, as add-ons to BES. (See the UK price list here).

Sims is confident that with 70,000 accounts out there, some will, and BlackBerry has set the aggressive goal of doubling enterprise services revenue to $500m by FY2016.

Currently the services side relies on legacy NOC service revenue from the era when carriers hooked consumers and business customers up to BIS, for around a fiver month, via the SAF or "Subscriber Activation Fee". It was a nice deal for both partners, but one that has been in sharp decline as punters moved away from BlackBerry. (There’s a decent analysis of this Tarzan rope-swing manoeuvre, here).

One thing’s for sure: BlackBerry doesn’t expect revenue to come from MDM (Mobile Device Management) alone, as it thinks this has become commoditised.

“MDM is a minor feature of what we do,” Jeff Holleran told us. “None of the MDM guys make money – Good pulled an IPO, Mobile Iron lose money, and Airwatch’s numbers are pretty ugly,” says Sims.

Oh, and Microsoft’s coming. ®

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