On Tuesday June 3rd, 2014 the BlackBerry Experience headed to London, U.K. This event ran a little differently to the previous events. Most of the attendees there were invited by BlackBerry themselves and we were lucky enough to get a press invite to the event. It was a small event and most of the people in attendance were IT administrators or representatives for global blue chip companies. The day was split into sessions with the first half containing the keynote presentation. The second half was where things got meaty with future product details, enterprise applications and of course a Q & A session.
Registration began at 9:30am with the event due to kick-off at 10am. I was there around 9am so it gave me time to scout around. There was already a handful of people there at that time and so I thought I'd be on the look out for the types of devices people were carrying around. Bear in mind, these are people from corporate companies. Immediately I saw a couple of BlackBerry Z30s, Z10s and Q10s. There was also the odd Samsung or iPhone device. As more people arrived I was seeing more and more Z30 devices in hand - which for me was surprising but I also thought that this was pretty amazing to see. As of right now I think the Z30 is the best BlackBerry 10 device so far. Why wouldn't it be? It is the current flagship device at has a lot of badass features.
After you registered, you were directed to a 'holding room' to get refreshments. In that room, there was a display stand where people could go hands on with all the BlackBerry 10 devices currently available, as well as the BlackBerry 9720. There were also a couple of guys there to give demos. I got to work asking questions. I was told about the ability to install Android apps with the latest OS version. The rep showed me how to download 1Mobile or the Amazon App Store in order to browse and download Android apps. We were soon ushered into the Auditorium for the keynote presentation.
First up was Markus Mueller, who is Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director Europe. Markus gave the the keynote presentation.
"Enterprise is our heritage"
One of the first things Markus said was that when John Chen came on board in November 2013, he said BlackBerry had "to focus and if you want to focus, you need to focus on the battles you can win." And since enterprise is BlackBerry's roots that is the battle they are looking to win. As we know, this is what BlackBerry is currently focusing on and what these BlackBerry Experience events have been targeting.
He then went on to talk about BlackBerry's Strategic Vision. The strategy consists of three parts - a compelling enterprise strategy, enabling productivity and going into the Internet of Things with the QNX platform.
The final thing stated during the keynote presentation was that in order for BlackBerry to follow through with their strategy, they need to execute. Again, their execution plan consisted of three things - recommitment to customers, expanding value and leveraging the ecosystem.
After the keynote presentation, another speaker came up - Shaun Collins, Founder of CCS Insight. Shaun is an analyst and his presentation looked into the importance of mobility and key trends. He talked about how IT departments budgets in Europe are increasing. The top areas in which these budgets will be prioritised are hardware and software. These include server virtualisation, smartphones, tablet PCs and mobility.
The key takeaway from Shaun Collins' presentation was that with the way things are moving in the mobile enterprise world BlackBerry is in a prime place to fill the needs of companies.
Following Shaun Collins' presentation, there was a customer panel session. Three representatives were part of the customer panel. A representative from Glasgow City Council (Alastair Lang), the Medical Protection Society (Glen Coultish) and law firm Taylor Vinters (Steve Sumner). They had all recently had their IT contracts up and so were looking to shop around. They were all existing BES5 customers but pressure from employees wanting to use Android or iOS devices made each of them trial or at least look into the cost of moving away from BlackBerry smartphones.
The first thing stated and asked when the session started was when looking at "regular" press, people have just about written BlackBerry off but in the trade press this is not so and Steve Sumner went on to say that the case was very true especially for the law firm he works at. For lawyers, they need to be able to be able to send and receive a lot of confidential information and BlackBerry is a trusted product for doing this. When asked why the law firm decided to go with BlackBerry, Steve Sumner said that they had been using BlackBerry devices for many years and it just "ticks all the boxes" when it comes to performance, security and business collaboration.
Glen Coultish, from the Medical Protection Society said when they looked into deploying Samsung and iPhone smartphones the costs of the devices alone was 30-40% more than purchasing BlackBerry 10 models. They also love being able to separate personal and work spaces with BlackBerry Balance.
When asked what BlackBerry 10 models were preferred by the employees, the Medical Protection Society workers gravitated towards BlackBerry Z10 devices for the bigger screen, while the lawyers much preferred BlackBerry Q10 devices due to the QWERTY-keyboard which allowed them to type out more accurately when sending out e-mails.
In each case, BlackBerry was there to help them transition from BES5 to BES10. They all had in-house apps which they need to use and BlackBerry helped them port this app over to BlackBerry 10 as well as help them achieve CGSI compliance. For Steve Sumner, he said that BES10 opened up more opportunities for them.
Ultimately, the reason all three companies went (or stayed) with BlackBerry is because of cost and security and it was proven for productivity. Alastair Lang, from Glasgow City Council also went onto say that security on other platforms is not as granular. BES10 is very granular and is what they need and prefer.
This customer panel session was very eye opening and it was great to hear actual real world stories. Enterprise isn't an area we talk about much here. I know why I love and use a BlackBerry device as a consumer and it was nice to see the reasons corporate companies choose BlackBerry.
After the customer panel it was time for a break. Press were ushered into another room while everyone else went back to the 'holding' area for refreshments. However, when it was time to go back for the second half, we, as press were not going anywhere. Two members of press returned to the auditorium but were politely removed before the second half presentation begun. Though this is something I learned at the end of the day.
It was not until afterwards, that I realised why this London event was an invitation only event. All the IT administrators and company representatives had all signed an NDA at the time of invite or perhaps even on the day. The reason for this was because they were given a peek into upcoming devices. Again, this was all things that transpired after the event finished. They got a look at the BlackBerry Windermere, Classic, Z3 LTE and the next Porsche Design QWERTY device. I'm told that the BlackBerry Windermere looks very much like the images we have been seeing lately and looks a lot nicer in person than in the pictures. Also, that it's about passport-sized. Of course, due to NDA no photos were allowed to be taken. So, even I had got in to the second half, there wouldn't be much I could talk about anyway.
It was a great experience anyway, even if I didn't get hands-on time with these devices. The customer session was a highlight and just seeing the commitment BlackBerry has to moving forward.
I managed to shake hands and say hello to a few CrackBerry readers. If you were there, what were your key takeaways from the day? Hit up comments. You can check out the photo gallery above of the displays around the venue.