The numbers were sobering: When BlackBerry recently reported sales for early 2013, it was crystal clear that there was no pent-up demand for its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones. All those former BlackBerry users and BlackBerry holdovers didn't rush to buy the new touch-oriented BlackBerry Z10 or the traditional-keyboard-equipped BlackBerry Q10. In fact, sales didn't budge from the weak figures BlackBerry amassed for its outdated BlackBerry 7 devices -- so much for the notion of a BlackBerry nation waiting to resurrect itself.
That's too bad, as the BlackBerry Z10 is a credible smartphone, though not as compelling as the iPhone 5 or an Android smartphone such as the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S 4. The Q10, meanwhile, will appeal only to die-hard keyboard users, and clearly there aren't as many of them as BlackBerry had hoped. Microsoft, whose own weak Windows Phone platform has languished for its three years of existence, has taken the cold reception to BlackBerry 10 as a signal to try to take over the old BlackBerry market, which theoretically is a combination of texting-heavy youth and old-guard corporate users -- that is, those not using iPhones.
Carriers such as AT&T have egged on Microsoft, claiming they'll promote Windows Phone (via the new Nokia Lumia 1020) to help create a third force in mobile behind Android and iOS, mainly to help the carriers negotiate better deals with Apple and Android providers like Samsung. We've heard that promise before, with no real follow-up. Carriers' executives may want a third option, but they make money only when they sell a product, so their salespeople focus on where the commissions actually happen. That's iOS and Android.
Putting aside the carriers' doublespeak, why couldn't Windows Phone take advantage of BlackBerry's woes and take over its 2 to 3 percent of current sales (depending on whose numbers you believe) in addition to Windows Phone's 3 to 4 percent, to approach a viable 10 percent share of new sales?
The answer is simple: Windows Phone doesn't have the goods to satisfy business needs, and as a consumer device its strengths don't really matter. The BlackBerry 10 operating system has the best security features by far, but the iPhone's iOS handles nearly all important security needs -- enough to get Defense Dept. approval. If security were that critical, there'd have been a bump in BlackBerry sales when the Z10 and Q10 shipped. Despite the belly-aching you hear about mobile security, it's clear that iOS fills the real need.
Android doesn't meet enterprise security needs, and the technology promised to change that -- Samsung's Knox -- is still MIA. But Android is further ahead in terms of security than Windows Phone, the least secure of the major mobile platforms. Where security matters, Windows Phone can't get in the door.