Does BlackBerry have any Playbook?

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor, and Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — June 28, 2013

Today’s BlackBerry earnings call started with what sounded like a defensive comment by the company’s CEO. “We’ve never been just a mobile device company,” said Thorsten Heins. “What is exciting is we are getting very comfortable with who we are as a company and where we will fit in the market.”

Perhaps, Heins was talking about the company under his leadership, which began in 2011, or, since he repeatedly stated that they are “just five months in” for BlackBerry’s entirely new “mobile computing” platform , he may view BlackBerry 10 as a rebirth.

But realistically, BlackBerry should already be “comfortable” as a company and understand its market — at least a part of which (the enterprise) it used to dominate.

Positioning the company in 2014, Heins stated emphatically, “We don’t have to be all things to all people in all markets.”  He also explained that they are not in it for the short term — “marathon” is the word he chose.

Heins talked financials in a quieter tone — products alone are not good enough to ensure long-term turnaround, he noted. However, in Q1, the company still had $3.1 billion in cash, their highest cash position in three years. “We will continue to focus on our financial strength.”

The most important point from the earnings call: an operating loss is expected for second quarter, but strong financial position still allows them to make investments. BlackBerry lost $84 million in the first quarter. Upon release of the news, stocks began tanking — down 20%.

But It IS The Device, Isn’t It?
Heins noted that BlackBerry’s smartphone portfolio is just starting to fill out and the current and upcoming product portfolio will address different markets. However, there will never be more than six devices in the market at any given time, he said.

BB10 has been an effective launch product, he also noted. The QWERTY, which arrived late in Q1, is available now in 96 countries, with 50 more to launch in Q2. Enterprise BES also has a strong leadership position. BlackBerry’s goal is to remain number one in the segment, for what Heins termed the most comprehensive solution on the market today, the “ultimate mobile platform for business.”

He added that 18,000 companies are currently on board and 60% of Fortune 500 customers have either ordered or downloaded or installed BES10, including top companies in retails, financial, construction, communication, healthcare, etc. Is BlackBerry taking a cue from Samsung, which is aggressively going after verticals? “We have a great opportunity with BES10 in the enterprise,” he said.

BlackBerry is also aggressively concentrating on new services for the consumer, such as BB Messenger, what Heins insisted is the “preeminent messaging platform.” BBM Channel was launched in Beta on May 14th and now 60,000 users are engaged. A global rollout is expected for August. Previously, at BlackBerry Live, the company announced that BBM will be available for iOS and Android as well.

No Tablet
And just as Mobile Enterprise suspected, tablets aren’t going to be part of that success or strategy, at least not the PlayBook, which shipped just around 100,000 units. Heins said a team was working hard on moving BB10 to the PlayBook, but added: “Unfortunately I am not satisfied with the level of performance and user experience, and made the decision to stop these efforts.”

As he did again today, Heins has frequently talked about his vision of a “new world of mobile computing.” Since tablets are taking over the business world, Mobile Enterprise asked BlackBerry after the earnings call what this vision involves — if not tablets, than what devices, processes and solutions will be running this world? A response from BlackBerry is forth coming.

This idea of bucking the trend is not new to Heins —  he is clearly not interested in just keeping up with the rest of the market anyway.  He reiterated that on the call today as well. “I am so proud and so happy that we have built our own platform with BB10 that allows us to be different…not to be a ‘me too’ — based on an open OS and an open application framework. That matters to us and to our customers.”

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