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商业 - 科技

黑莓放弃最后的优势

Cyrus Sanati 2013年05月21日

黑莓宣布将在今年夏天,将免费短信服务BBM向iOS和安卓用户开放。在极客媒体中,有人称此举等于“投降”。黑莓竟然放弃其唯一一个真正有粘性的消费者导向功能,这似乎是非常奇怪的一个举动。

    黑莓(Blackberry)决定在其他手机平台上提供其免费短信服务BBM,对于一家已经没有什么可以失去的公司来说,此举是其背水一战的“绝望之举”。BBM是在黑莓日益减少的用户群体中用户粘性最高的功能。公司希望通过将该功能免费提供给安卓(Android)和iOS用户,扩大或至少维持一度利润丰厚的生态系统。

    如今,指摘黑莓非常容易。过去五年,公司前一个管理团队的拙劣表现,或许将成为商学院课堂上的经典负面教材,被一届又一届的学生们用来研究一家公司在面临竞争时是如何坐以待毙的。但无论如何,现在的黑莓正处于上升期。公司股票比去年的最低点上涨了超过一倍,而且,经过两年的发展(在科技界已经是很长时间)后,公司凭借最新推出的操作系统 Blackberry 10以及Z10、Q10和最近发布的Q5等几款新手机,终于重回正轨。

    然而,尽管Blackberry 10系列的发布在近期引发了一些乐观情绪,但在竞争激烈的消费类硬件领域,公司的市场份额仍在被使用谷歌(Google)安卓平台的竞争对手不断蚕食。据IDC周四公布的最新销售数据显示,今年第一季度,搭载黑莓操作系统的手机出货量仅占市场份额的2.9%,比去年减少了35%。运行微软Windows操作系统的手机首次超越黑莓,市场份额达到3.2%。而安卓与苹果(Apple)iOS则联手拿下了92%的市场份额,其中安卓的市场份额达到59%,比去年同期增长了80%。全球智能手机中,运行安卓系统的比例占75%。

    公平地说,第一季度的销售数据仅反映了新黑莓手机在美国八天的销量和在加拿大两个月的销量。但消费者对于黑莓产品的冷淡反应令人沮丧。比如没有任何人彻夜排队购买新Z1O。据报道,Z10手机在发布一个季度后,出货量终于突破了100万台,这算不错的表现,但对于一家拥有如此巨大的品牌认知度的公司而言,这并不值得庆贺。相反,去年九月,iPhone手机在发布后仅仅一周时间内的销量便接近500万台。

    如今,黑莓手机能做的,在安卓手机上都能实现。没有多少必备应用是仅在黑莓手机上运行的。实际上,黑莓似乎把应用开发空间拱手送给了谷歌,甚至它把Blackberry 10能够运行安卓应用作为一个重大的卖点。

    不过,黑莓有一个消费者导向的功能,是其他设备制造商或移动平台无法提供的——黑莓信息服务(BBM)。该服务允许黑莓用户之间发送和接收信息,共享软件,甚至交换音乐,而无线运营商不会对此收费。事实证明,在印尼、海地和尼日利亚等无线服务不太可靠的地区,该功能具有很高的用户粘度。

    Blackberry's decision to make its free messaging service, BBM, available on other mobile phone platforms is a Hail Mary play for a damaged company that pretty much has nothing to lose at this point. By giving away the stickiest feature available to Blackberry's dwindling consumer base to Android and iOS users for free, the company is hoping that it will be able to expand, or at the very least maintain, its once lucrative ecosystem.

    It is extremely easy to bash on Blackberry (BBRY) these days. The bunglings of its former management team over the last five years will probably be studied in business schools for generations as how not to do just about everything. But Blackberry is on an upswing of sorts at the moment. Its stock has more than doubled from its lows hit last year, and after two years of development (light years in the tech world) the company is "back in the game" with the launch of its new operating system, Blackberry 10, and a few new handsets, the Z10, Q10, and the recently announced Q5.

    Yet despite the recent optimism over the launch of the Blackberry 10 series, the company will almost certainly continue to lose market share in the crowded consumer hardware space to rivals that use Google's (GOOG) Android platform. Phones shipped with the Blackberry operating system made up just 2.9% of mobile phones sold in the first quarter of this year, down 35% from last year, according to new sale numbers released by IDC on Thursday. Phones running Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows operating system outsold Blackberry for what appears to be the first time, capturing 3.2% of the market. But phones running either Android or Apple's (AAPL) iOS, captured 92% of all mobile sales -- with Android garnering 59% of the total market, an 80% increase from the same time last year. With that, Android now runs on 75% of the world's smartphones.

    To be fair, those first-quarter sales numbers just reflect eight days of sales for the new Blackberry phones in the U.S. and just a couple of months of sales in Canada. Nevertheless, the public's lukewarm reception to the product -- no one was camping out for the new Z10 -- isn't encouraging. The phone has reportedly passed the 1 million shipped mark in its first quarter of launch, which isn't bad, but isn't great for a company with such huge brand recognition. By contrast, nearly 5 million iPhones were sold in the first week of its launch back in September.

    There really isn't much you can do on a Blackberry that you can't do on an Android phone these days. There aren't a bunch of must-have apps that run exclusively on Blackberry, for example. Indeed, Blackberry seems to have surrendered the app development space to Google as it considers the new Blackberry 10's ability to run Android app clones as a major selling point.

    But there is one consumer-focused feature that Blackberry offers that no other handset maker or mobile platform has -- its Blackberry Messaging Service (BBM). The service allows Blackberry users to send and receive messages, share files, and even exchange music with other Blackberry users without incurring special messaging charges from their wireless carrier. It has proven to be very sticky in places like Indonesia, Haiti, and Nigeria where wireless service is unreliable.

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