Supported Browser
  • About Us
  • Subscribe
  • Contact us
Entrepreneurship - BLOG

BlackBerry as Niche: Firm Disappointment and Strategy Change

Henrich Greve |

BlackBerry director Bert Nordberg was elected recently, but is not shy about making statements: he has already said publicly that the BlackBerry smartphones need to retreat to certain niches in the market, leaving others for the competitors. This may seem reasonable to many listeners given how BlackBerry has suffered from competition by Samsung, Apple, and other firms, but it is probably not a popular view in BlackBerry, where employees remember their earlier great times.

The statement reminded me of my discussion with a technical assistant when I got a new job and needed to choose between a BlackBerry and a different brand of Smarthphone. I asked about the details of the differences, and was told that the main difference was that the BlackBerry installation of the mailer was more complicated on their side, though it would look the same on mine. The security would also be greater. I was not quite convinced, and went for the other phone, which had some nice features. (I think there are more efficient ways of hacking email accounts than going for the smartphone, so the extra security did not impress me.)

Of course, the problem that BlackBerry might be having is that too many people are making my choice, that some firms have stopped offering BlackBerry, or that some other phones have improved their security so much that the difference is not important anymore. In fact, a mix of these things may be going on. Indeed, a recent worry is that Samsung has been approved as secure enough by Pentagon, and may also get other approvals by the US government. It is hard to argue you are most secure if the approvals line up with a major competitor.

If that is the strategic situation, where does the “niche” comment come from? Well, it really is an issue of how organizations learn specific actions. There is a lot of research on this, which Gavetti, Greve, Levinthal, and Ocasio recently reviewed, and some main conclusions are well known:

  • Strategies have histories. For example, Mr. Nordberg has previously worked for Sony Ericsson, and one of the things he did there was to narrow its niche focus. It worked, making it likely that he will try it again and even that BlackBerry will be interested in having him as a board member.
  • Strategies spread. For example, niche focus is a known strategy that can be observed among many firms, its sheer popularity can make it an option even if the success in each firm is uncertain.
  • Strategies have reasons. For a firm that is losing in some places, the option of marketing more intensely in fewer places is easy to explain, and is a good way to sell a niche focus strategy.

So, we can tell where this strategy came from. Will it work? That’s too early to tell: what firms do and what saves firms is not so well linked.

Add a comment Already a member?
We welcome your comments and encourage lively debate. However, to ensure the quality of discussion, our moderators reserve the right not to publish personal attacks, abusive comments or overly promotional content. You can view our Terms & Conditions
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Your Privacy

INSEAD takes your privacy very seriously. For this reason, we inform you that the data collected via the form above is processed electronically for the purpose(s) specified in this form and will not be used outside this framework. In accordance with the Data Protection Act of 6 January 1978 amended by the GDPR, you are granted statutory rights of access, modification, update, deletion and limitation of treatment of your personal data. You may exercise these rights at any time by writing or sending an email to INSEAD at [email protected]. You have the right, on legitimate grounds, to object to the collection and processing of your personal information. For more information, please see our privacy policy.