By adaptive - July 11th, 2016

BlackBerry ditches its signature handset, as Google squares off against Microsoft in the mobile enterprise. Andrew Tolve reports.

In the news


With its two-way texting, email and calling capabilities, BlackBerry ushered in the smartphone era in 2002. By 2007, it represented one out of every three smartphones sold and was the handset of choice for enterprises, governments and militaries around the globe. Now, just nine years later, the phone is dead. 


BlackBerry announced last week that after years of tepid sales, it will stop manufacturing the BlackBerry Classic, the last of its signature handsets with the QWERTY keyboards. If you'd like to buy one as a momento, sales of existing stock through carriers and on the BlackBerry website will continue until supply runs out. But if your enterprise runs on BlackBerry, you'll need to make a move to Android or iPhone — and fast. In the wake of the announcement, the U.S. Senate announced that it will drop all future BlackBerries for staffers. 


What went wrong? The iPhone. Not just the smartphone itself, but BlackBerry senior management's inability to see the iPhone as competition. It was almost Shakespearean, the way the whole world could see the protagonist's impending demise - except the protagonist itself. By 2011 BlackBerry had plummeted to 11% of global smartphone market share; today it represents 0.2%.


The company says that it will continue to make Android handsets and ramp up efforts to focus on software and security for the mobile enterprise. 


In the money


Twitter acquired machine-learning specialist Magic Pony Technology for a reported $150 million. The London-based startup specializes in image processing, allowing users to enhance photographs or create them anew using advanced neural networks. You know the little Adobe fill brush that you can use to photoshop pics? Imagine doing that on your smartphone, at the tap of a finger, with twenty times the power and nuance. Coming soon on Twitter.


And on Android apps. Never one to be left behind, Google followed Twitter’s announcement with the revelation that it too had acquired a machine-learning company that focuses on image recognition for mobile devices: Moodstocks. No word on the purchase price, but we do know that Moodstocks’s application program interface and software development kit will be discontinued and brought under the Google umbrella.


In other news


Facebook unveiled OpenCellular, a small piece of hardware that Facebook hopes will bring wireless access to people around the globe. The company envisions the devices being affixed to telephone poles, trees and other upright devices, from where they can transmit wireless networks in support of everything from 2G to LTE. Facebook is still in testing mode; once that’s complete, the company will open source the technology to telecom operators, entrepreneurs, OEMs, and researchers once it’s complete so they can expedite roll out around the world.


Sticking with Facebook, the company’s new live streaming tool, Facebook Live, catapulted into the national spotlight when a woman used it to livestream her husband being shot by a cop with little justification. The incident happened in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, just a couple days after another black man was inexplicably shot by four cops in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That too was captured on a mobile phone. National outrage has ensued. 


Google partnered up with RingCentral in its quest to dethrone Microsoft and become king of communication and collaboration for the distributed workforce. Together, the two will offer RingCentral Office Google Edition, a suite of productivity tools for the mobile enterprise that allows people to work wherever and however they want, all the while staying in sync with colleagues. The suite will include Google Apps for Work.


Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are making steady headway into the enterprise, but 61% of IT pros still view mobile devices as less secure than fixed devices like desktop computers, according to a new report from Tech Pro Research. When it comes to the most trustable mobile brands, Apple led the way with 84% of respondents viewing the phones as offering “good” mobile security, if not “very good” or “excellent.” Samsung came in a distant second, followed by BlackBerry, Microsoft and Google. 


Finally, the illusion of absolute safety in self-driving cars was shattered when an American man, Joshua Brown, was killed while his Tesla Model S was cruising down a Florida highway in self-driving Autopilot mode. Car and driver failed to pick out a tractor trailer turning across the highway — the car because its sensors didn’t detect the truck’s white siding against a brightly lit sky, the driver because his hands were off the wheel and his eyes were reportedly trained on a Harry Potter movie playing in his dashboard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation. 


Here’s one thing we know for sure: Playing with mobile devices in cars — even those with advanced driver assistance systems — can be deadly. Put the phone down.


The Mobile Digest is a biweekly lowdown on the world of mobile, combining Open Mobile Media analysis with information from industry press releases.


Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to Open Mobile Media.


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