For Some Partners, The BlackBerry Flame Burns Bright


Just one year before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007, Webster's "New World College Dictionary" named "CrackBerry" its "New Word of the Year," reflecting the handset's domination of the mobile market. It's been a rocky ride ever since for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company, whose phones now account for a dismal 0.6 percent of worldwide market share, according to research firm IDC.

But loyal partners say BlackBerry and its upcoming BlackBerry Classic handset, BBM messaging services and BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (BES 10) will help it bounce back and remain relevant in business. They say BlackBerry's stellar reputation as a security-and-privacy-first company will resonate with users as concerns over mobile spying and hacking continue to grow.

"They're still the No. 1 leader in handheld communication," said James Hawkins, owner of RedHawks IT Solutions, a Washington, D.C.-based BlackBerry partner. "Regarding emails, BlackBerry server, BlackBerry enterprise suite -- in terms of mobile devices, they are the easiest to work with, easiest to configure. They're the No. 1 messaging tool available on the market right now and require the least amount of maintenance."

BlackBerry's security features, which come native on the phones, makes them attractive to larger corporations and keeps the company in business, partners say.

"Other companies like Apple and Google, they've used third-party resources like Mobile Iron to help facilitate security for their devices," said Steven Kantorowitz, president of CelPro Associates, a BlackBerry partner based in New York. "But companies and the whole ecosystem is much better with BlackBerry. They have the strongest security system built into their servers. It's always been the top."

BlackBerry CEO John Chen also has highlighted security as a key differentiator compared with competitors, pointing out that BlackBerry's most loyal customers are "concentrated in the government space, in enterprises like banks, insurance companies and various extremely productive-oriented industries that need to be very secure," he told USA Today in a recent interview. "They need to have high security and trusting of the products, both in the handset as well as the software. That's a big part of my road map and strategy."

Kantorowitz said Chen's message resonates with him and his customers that have BlackBerry as their phone of choice. "We work with a lot of security firms and investment banks and they still have a tremendous amount of BlackBerries. One of my biggest clients has 25,000 BlackBerries. They are a large investment bank and they are sticking with it."

Kantorowitz acknowledged that BlackBerries do have shortcomings compared with other devices, but he still endorses their security features over any other mobile device.

"In terms of applications, iPhone and Android rule the Net, but without the third-party software they have tons of holes. It's very easy to get into those devices," Kantorowitz said. "It's unfortunate that BlackBerry has lost a tremendous amount of market share, but it's because they didn't keep up with the rest of the industry."

PUBLISHED MAY 5, 2014