24 Feb 2017
Blackberry's disapperance means mobile tech not a solo busines

The Demise Of The One-Trick Ponies In Mobile Tech

If there’s one area where the old business adage of “do one thing and do it well” doesn’t seem to apply, it’s mobile tech.

That’s the takeaway from news this week that BlackBerry sold 207,900 handsets last quarter. This is so low that Gartner can round its market share down to 0 per cent.

These figures aren’t surprising, given the general dearth of Blackberrys in your day-to-day life. Nor should we necessarily mourn its position. Blackberry did mobile tech uniquely well in the pre-smartphone era. But it failed to keep up with the rapid advancements in how we view and use the devices in our pockets.

Place the brand’s downfall in a wider context, however, and what remains is an ecosystem of flagship mobile tech providers that enjoy business stability from other sectors. Google has Adwords. Apple offers Macs/Audio accessories/music services. Samsung manufactures so many products it’s impossible to list, and so on.

This is troubling. These companies do not live and die by pushing mobile technology forward. It’s just a component of their overall corporate strategy. The mobile phone has powered a revolution in the way we live and the way we work. It happened through innovation and cut-throat competition. Even small breakthroughs offered potentially massive rewards.

Now, smaller ‘mobile only’ providers such as HTC  are struggling to gain traction at the flagship level. It appears there’s no room at the top except for giants. This isn’t just bad for competition, it’s a disincentive for innovation. The small gains in camera technology that would have made one phone the clear buy for millions are simply something to wait for now.

Apple, Samsung and Google can weather 12 months of reduced sales, then engineer (or license) whatever technology they lack into the next iteration of the device. Throw in a mature market that is naturally prone to plateauing anyway, and it looks as if the wow factor might be lacking for a while to come.

It would be nice to see a new challenger, with its stock firmly in the mobile hardware space, making an impact on the market soon.

Quantifying the value of security

Security is an industry fuelled by fear. It’s hard to look at a security-tech marketing campaign that doesn’t have an ominous “…or else” message in it implicitly or explicitly. One of the problems with this approach is quantifying the fear. What’s the financial cost of a reputational hit?

We got an answer this week with Bloomberg News reporting that Verizon wants to shave $US250 million off its $US4.8 billion deal to buy Yahoo.

With revelations that hackers stole information from one billion Yahoo accounts in 2013 and 500 million in 2014, the two biggest known data breaches in history, some in the industry expressed surprise that the discount, which is about 5 per cent, wasn’t bigger.

With this move, we may finally have an independent market assessment of the “money on the line”. If confirmed, expect it to be quoted ad nauseam in security discussions for a long time to come.

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