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Star Wars: The BlackBerry awakens

Believe it or not, the release of the new Star Wars movie — and with it the return of Han, Luke and Princess Leia — is almost upon us. The galaxy far, far away is at the top of my mind.

Oddly enough, BlackBerry’s mobility story isn’t that different from that of Star Wars’ Galactic Republic, the government that ruled all before the Sith built the Empire. Like the Republic, BlackBerry once sat atop its galaxy — it had the biggest share of the enterprise mobility management (EMM) market as recently as 2013 — but it has since fallen from its perch.

After the Republic fell, the Rebel Alliance emerged to fight back. It was rebellion leader Princess Leia who uttered one of the original movie’s most famous lines: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” It appears BlackBerry has taken her words to heart, but instead of reaching out to an old Jedi master, the company turned to other vendors for help.

BlackBerry expanded its partnership with Samsung back in July to support KNOX device management and security in BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 12. Then, in September, the company took another step by purchasing Good Technology, one of the top standalone EMM vendors and a BES competitor. Good brings even more security to BlackBerry’s EMM platform with its popular email container app and other mobile application management technology. In fact, the acquisition catapults BlackBerry back to the top of the EMM market, over AirWatch by VMware.

Now, like the rebels’ attack on the Death Star, BlackBerry is making one more big move to try to return to prominence in the hardware realm. It plans to release a new flagship phone, the BlackBerry Priv, running Google’s popular Android OS. The device combines BlackBerry’s strong security pedigree with Android’s consumer appeal. But while the Death Star attack came at the perfect time to jumpstart the rebels’ campaign against the Empire, BlackBerry’s team-up with Android might be too late.

“Had Blackberry made this same decision years ago, they could possibly be a thriving handset maker for the business world,” said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights and Strategy, in a recent SearchMobileComputing story. “I see the next few phones as their last shot, otherwise they really should exit the hardware business.”

BlackBerry faces steep odds to help it reclaim its mobile throne, but so did the rebels when they teamed up with the Ewoks on Endor — and we all know how that turned out: