Smartphone vendor BlackBerry has promoted its first four partners to the Platinum tier of its new channel programme as it boosts its channel involvement in the wake of its strategy shift.
Rsellers ISEC7, GFI, GENOA and Novalink have been given Platinum status in the vendor's partner programme which launched in May 2016 to accommodate the move to the "new BlackBerry".
The "new BlackBerry" – according to Richard McLeod (pictured), global vice president of enterprise software channels at BlackBerry – is focusing more on enterprise mobile software over the mobile devices for which the vendor is known.
The switch follows the acquisition of five companies in the past two and a half years, including the enterprise mobility management vendor Good for $425m (£325m) in September 2015.
"BlackBerry has traditionally been known for our world-class, secure mobile devices, and now we are much more than secure devices. We've taken our security heritage, our strength in managing devices and the capabilities of all our acquisitions to give a much broader definition of managing secure messaging, secure communications and secure documents," said McLeod.
"We have gone through quite a few acquisitions, about $2bn worth in total. In January we introduced our platform including the capabilities of all the acquisitions. So after the introduction of the platform, it was critical to provide training and enablement to partners."
All the vendor's partner programmes, including the programmes belonging to its acquired companies, have been brought together into a single three-tier programme which launched in May 2016.
The Authorised tier currently has around 50 partners, Gold tier has between 15 and 20 partners and Platinum now has four partners. McLeod said there are currently 75 partners awaiting approval for the Gold and Platinum tiers.
ISEC7, GFI, GENOA and Novalink are all long-term BlackBerry partners based in Germany, said McLeod, and were allowed to "fast track" through the tiers.
"They have been long and loyal partners with BlackBerry," he explained. "They brought together a skill set that meant they could somewhat fast track. We did require that they complete the testing for Gold and Authorised, but then they fast-tracked through that and moved into the Platinum accreditation."
Authorised partners are approved to resell BlackBerry solutions. Gold partners get more advanced sales training, technical training and systems integration training. Platinum partners are approved to offer support services, application consultancy and advanced system integration.
McLeod said that the new programme is part of the vendor's "recommitment" to the channel.
"[We have a] very strong commitment to channels," he added. "It is our path to grow; it is our path to customer localisation and we are investing very heavily. BlackBerry has been going through a number of changes, and [it] was moving aggressively into enterprise software with those five companies. If you look at the industry almost everyone who is successful in software makes aggressive moves through and with the channel. So as that platform came together, I was brought in as part of that recommitment to channel."
Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst Quocirca, said he believes that there are too many established vendors in mobile software management for BlackBerry to differentiate itself in the market.
"Does [the switch to software] differentiate them, enough? If it doesn't then it is another cost they are having to deal with," he explained. "When you look at what VMware does with AirWave and what loads of other mobile device management companies are now able to provide, what BlackBerry can say they are adding over and beyond those MDM providers, I just don't get it."
In its last quarter BlackBerry fell to a GAAP net loss of over $670m on revenue that fell 39 per cent to $400m in the three months ending on 31 May 2016. But CEO John Chen stressed it had more than doubled its software revenue year on year for the second consecutive quarter, driven partly by enterprise mobile management.
However, Longbottom added:"I think they have mojor problems. It looked at one stage as though they were setting themselves up to do a sale on patents and fold. I still believe they are not going to survive right through."
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