When BlackBerry was exploding onto consumer scene in the mid 2000s, a big part of this expansion came from BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) capabilities, which were unique to the company.
Specifically, BlackBerry had a Network Operating Center (NOC) that was connected directly to carrier networks, and the service architecture allowed them to help carriers sell feature-specific BlackBerry plans. For example, a low cost “social” plan gave people access to things like Facebook, Twitter and BBM without providing access to email or the web browser. For people who were just buying their first smartphone plans, this had a lot of appeal. It absolutely helped BlackBerry grow.
Today I don’t see much emphasis on this, yet it’s clear that a large portion of the world still isn’t using a smartphone. The business case seems like it should still exist. Obviously it has to evolve though. I’d expect that everyone should have access to every feature of the phone when in WiFi coverage, but while in cellular coverage a cheap social plan may only provide the necessities of apps like Twitter, Facebook, BBM, WhatsApp, and perhaps a handful of other apps that we hope make their way to the platform (Instagram, Snapchat, etc).
In many parts of the world smartphones are only sold with data plans and there is no differentiation on how data is used. Both iOS and Android don’t have any capabilities (yet) to allow unlimited use of only certain apps when in cellular coverage. BlackBerry still has the NOC architecture running for legacy devices. They use the NOC differently for BlackBerry 10 and we’ve heard about how it allows greater security for the enterprise. But what about the consumer?
Why isn’t BlackBerry 10 taking advantage of inherent capabilities that gave BlackBerry 5, 6 and 7 a marketing advantage in emerging markets? Is this something that is in development and will exist when the legacy BBOS finally dies?
If BlackBerry was helping carriers get more customers onto smartphones for the first time, bumping up the customer monthly average spending by even a few dollars, it would help these carriers while building a much larger base of BlackBerry 10 users ... users who would probably stick around for while.
According to Gartner estimates, smartphone volume only just passed dumb phone volume globally in Q2 of this year. That means there are still a LOT of dumb phones being sold. This is going to stop. The only question is will BlackBerry do its part to grab these people as they make the conversion? Isn’t it time we saw a 2013 version of the good old BlackBerry Social plan powered by BlackBerry 10 and the good ol’ NOC?