Lately I've been feeling like there isn't much exciting going on in the world of BlackBerry. We're basically waiting until November to see if BES traction is as good as the company says it will be, and hoping to see BlackBerry get back to profitability.
That's why last week's announcement of Project Ion was somewhat exciting to me. Don't get me wrong - I think the press release said practically nothing. It's all too common in technology land for fancy press releases to be filled with vague-speak. BlackBerry announced a project, not a product. They are not anywhere close to the same thing.
I have a lot of questions running through my mind. Who's leading the project and what experience does he or she have? How does BlackBerry expect to compete against the other enormous companies that want to win in this space (including Microsoft)?
Around 2000, when the first BlackBerry devices hit the market, there was no such thing as a smartphone. BlackBerry was so far ahead of its time they laughed all the way to the bank as competitors stumbled to compete with them for years. But with machine to machine computing and the Internet of Things, this is not the case. Everyone is aware of the trend, and everyone wants to be a player. BlackBerry is not starting out from a position of early leadership like they did in mobile email. This leads me to believe they'd be better off boosting their position by combining forces with someone who's already in the space. It might give them a better chance of success versus building something from the ground up all by themselves.
Enter Sierra Wireless. Several years ago this Canadian wireless technology company made a strategic decision to focus exclusively on the M2M market. They launched their own cloud-based software platform, called AirVantage, to enable solutions for all sorts of enterprises whether it be outdoor advertising, fleet management, healthcare, or whatever. They've got a great position as a consolidator in the hardware side of the business, and dominant market share in that hardware business. The software piece is much newer. But I believe Sierra Wireless has all the pieces in place.
BlackBerry brings QNX, which is a highly secure micro-kernel based OS. That has value. And I can't help but wonder if BlackBerry and Sierra would be better off together. It's not the first time I've suggested this, and it probably won't be the last.
At the top of this article is a little YouTube explainer video that Sierra created to explain what they're up to. Thoughts?
(Disclosure: I own shares in BlackBerry and Sierra Wireless, and have for many years)