TORONTO – Long battered by complaints that it lacks the latest and greatest apps to attract consumers and keep them entertained, BlackBerry hopes the customers it’s now focusing on just don’t care about the dreaded “app gap.”
When BlackBerry provided a dire update on its business last month, the floundering company signalled it was turning away from mainstream consumers to refocus its efforts on two markets: enterprise customers and so-called “prosumers.”
The company didn’t elaborate then on what exactly it considers a prosumer to be but during a recent demo of its new Z30 smartphone, which was released in Canada this week, two spokesmen defined the customer type and why they might choose a BlackBerry.
“Their sole purpose is that this is primarily a communications device and a productivity machine,” said Michael Clewley, director of handheld software product management, while holding up his BlackBerry.
“While applications are good to have in some respects they’re not primary or sometimes even secondary for that type of user. And if they do use applications they’re using very targeted specific applications, they’re not spending a lot of time in the storefront browsing for the latest or greatest or trying to find out what’s hot and stuff like that. They’re going to look for apps that help get the job done for them.”
Todd Wood, senior vice president of design, said some think the “pro” in prosumer stands for professional, but it can also be short for producer.
“They create more content than they consume, in most cases, and arguably that was the original definition of prosumer,” said Wood.
“There’s a set of BlackBerry users that really think of themselves as enterprises in and of themselves so they want to choose a more professional or semi-professional device.”
Clewley did emphasize that the company hasn’t given up on trying to land some of the biggest apps, including Netflix and Instagram. He said the new build of BlackBerry’s operating system, 10.2, incorporates the latest version of Google’s Android platform, which should lead to more Android apps getting repurposed for BlackBerry users.
“What we find is developers who bring their apps to BlackBerry 10 actually see a good uptake of those applications but you’ve got to sort of win them over,” Clewley said.
“So I think we’re doing things to help users get the more fun applications or the media-type applications and we’re continuing to drive and go after important productivity focused applications.”