Microsoft keeping an eye on BlackBerry talks… should Cupertino be doing the same?
I was reading the Tom Warren article "Microsoft reportedly rushed Nokia deal, keeping an eye on potential BlackBerry talks" and I thought to myself that Tim should open the chequebook and put a bid in first.
Now you have finished laughing I will explain. The idea wouldn't be to revive Blackberry, to turn its fortunes around and bring it back to its heyday. No. I am nostalgic as well, but this piece is about how such an acquisition can benefit Apple.
My reasoning is as follows:
A Defensive Strategy
Worst reason up first: Microsoft is (reportedly) considering a bid. Anywhere there is Microsoft, Google isn't too far behind. I know it doesn't make much sense now Motorola is a Google company, but Google is Google - so who knows? The point is Apple cannot keep letting one of their two biggest rivals poach valuable intellectual property. That's how you get caught. Apple has the deepest cash reserves of all three and with Palm, Motorola and Nokia all gone, Blackberry is last remaining juicy target. Whilst it may be expensive for Apple to buy Blackberry, it could be more costly and damaging for Apple if Google, Microsoft or even Samsung brought Blackberry instead. Attack, as they say, is the the best form of defence.
Under Steve products were conceived, prototyped, designed and refined at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California. Sure, Jean-Marie Hullot was allowed to develop iCal in Paris, but that was the exception rather than the rule. Whereas under Tim Cook's leadership Apple is comfortable with chip development in Israel and voice recognition development in Boston (Siri). Cook's management style (still detail orientated, but less controlling) is better suited to allow operations to continue in Waterloo while the company integrated into Apple.
I believe in any large company, there are always great people, regardless of how well/poorly the company is performing financially. Sometimes their efforts are misdirected. Other times the sensible voices are drowned out by the loud voices. We all know about Blackberry's acquisitions, such as the Astonishing Tribe (TAT) and it is clear they have some creative and talented staff. Blackberry 10 itself has some interesting and original UI design ideas, even if the implementation is sometimes lacking.
What is most interesting to me is that Blackberry does the whole end to end solution. The hardware, platform, SDK and developer tools, bundled software, services all come from the same company. They have people thinking about and solving the same sorts of problems that Apple solves. If managed correctly, bringing in people with different ideas and perspectives could help the future of iOS. Obviously the counter point is "what does Apple have to learn from Blackberry?". I think the answer is it will be the people and not the product that Apple will be learning from. Even when Apple was turning out lousy products, they still had Jonathan Ive.
With the "consumerization of IT" you could argue this one doesn't really matter, but I think the enterprise still remains hard to get into, but easy to become entrenched once you are "in", thus almost guaranteeing a nice steady income stream. iOS is already on its way, but an acquisition of Blackberry could tip the platform over the edge. The message has to be managed carefully though. IT Managers would fear Apple would drop support on day one, leaving them stranded.
The pitch to the enterprise is fairly obvious "we will support your current devices, service them etc. for next 5 years (or more), after which we will help you seamlessly transition to iOS. Or you can transition sooner, whichever you prefer" (ok, that's a long pitch, but Apple have the PR and marketing staff to make it catchy). An Apple owned Blackberry makes iOS the go to platform for any large enterprise wishing to migrate. Whilst not a traditionally strong player in the enterprise, an acquisition of Blackberry would effectively make Apple more experienced and trusted overnight.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts? Am I way off? Would it be a distraction from Apple's primary focus? Would this be a good use of Apple's significant cash reserves? Or could they achieve the same result with a pack of matches?