BlackBerry is the story of a brand that once defined mobility and created an army of "Crackberry" fanatics who couldn't put down their devices.

Then the company had the rug pulled from underneath by Apple's iPhone and Google Android smartphones.

It was a hard landing for Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind BlackBerry.

Revenues dried up as customers stopped buying BlackBerries and RIM had to refocus its business fast... or die.


BlackBerry today is about security and device management software, and to a much smaller extent than in the past, smartphones.

You can still buy BlackBerry-branded smartphones and yes, some of the models have the signature hardware keyboard. They're not terribly BlackBerry though.

If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of you'll see "Copyright TCL Corporation".

The Telephone Communication Limited corporation, headquartered in Guangdong Province, China, manufactures the current set of BlackBerry smartphones under licence.

Also, the devices run Google's Android, albeit with BlackBerry security features added.

BlackBerry saw the writing on the wall a few years ago and outsourced most of its smartphone business to others, doing only some design and software enhancement work in-house.

In a fiercely-competitive mobile phone market, Chinese-made Android devices aren't a recipe for business success.

Instead, BlackBerry is leaning heavily on its secret sauce which is enterprise and government customers trusting the company's software and services that can manage other vendors' laptops and smartphones.

Locally, Parliamentary Services manage devices using BlackBerry Work software which the company got when it bought Good Technology in 2015, and which some ministers provide free advertising for in their email signatures. (As an aside, BlackBerry Work also has some rather unkind reviews by iOS users at iTunes. Let's hope it's working well for Parliamentary Services users.)

Compass Health has rolled out BlackBerry Unified Endpoint Manager (UEM) to 120 employees in Wellington, Porirua, Kapiti and Wairarapa.

It's a small but important deployment in a not-for profit organisation that's under pressure to keep patient data as secure as possible but can't spend heaps on doing it.

The healthcare management organisation's chief information officer Alistair Vickers said the big drawcard for the UEM was its low cost and a simple per-user licence, and Windows 10 laptop compatibility.

Local telcos bidding for the three-year device management contract lost out to Blackberry integrator ISEC7 as they asked for pricier and more complex per-device licensing schemes, Vickers said.

Apart from Windows 10 laptops, the BlackBerry UEM will manage newly-acquired Samsung A8 and Apple iOS staff smartphones, which can be enrolled in five to 10 minutes, according to Vickers who has used the software to on-board 65 devices.

There won't be any BlackBerry devices at Compass Health though, Vickers told me.

If you can't beat the competition's hardware, manage their gear for customers with your software. Will that approach pay off for BlackBerry? That's not clear as BlackBerry's transformation into a software company has yet to make it profitable.

Casting side-eyes at market leaders Apple and Samsung, you have to wonder what might have been if the Canadian company had come out with decently selling super premium "Crackberry" devices instead of half-baked smartphones that disappointed die-hard BlackBerry fans and developers.