BlackBerry Out of Plays

By Stephanie Blanchard, Assistant Editor, and Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — August 12, 2013

What’s happening with BlackBerry? Is the company ripe for the picking? Three executives have just left, another has recused himself for conflict of interest, and its Board of Directors has formed a Special Committee to “explore strategic alternatives to enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate BlackBerry 10 deployment.”

According to an official statement, options may include joint ventures, alliances or a sale of the business itself.

The last option is the most likely, according to industry analysts, but the announcement about this, as referenced above, has been made almost quietly. In other words BlackBerry is telegraphing their position while hiding in plain sight.

“BlackBerry had been exploring ‘strategic’ alternatives for their business even prior to the release of their BB10 devices earlier this year that included options such as licensing their OS,” said Wayne Lam, Senior Analyst, IHS iSuppli, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. “Today’s announcement, I think, signals something more dire.”

What is So Special?
While Microsoft is in the process of reorganizing, it does so with the intent of recapturing the enterprise, in terms of mobility (and via its upcoming 8.1 operating system), and has a viable shot. BlackBerry has a different path: survive or sell.

The new committee, to be chaired by Timothy Dattels, includes Thorsten Heins, CEO, Barbara Stymiest, Board Chair, Richard Lynch and Bert Nordberg.

“As the Special Committee focuses on exploring alternatives, we will be continuing with our strategy of reducing cost, driving efficiency and accelerating the deployment of BES 10, as well as driving adoption of BlackBerry 10 smartphones, launching the multi-platform BBM social messaging service, and pursuing mobile computing opportunities by leveraging the secure and reliable BlackBerry Global Data Network,” Heins said in a statement.

BlackBerry Bombs
In an interview with Mobile Enterprise earlier this year, Mitch Black, MOBI Wireless Management, President, noted that a good number of companies across all verticals were still issuing corporate-liable devices as late as 2011.  (This included a combination of smartphones, feature phones for industrial use, and tablets.)

However, that meant little to BlackBerry’s position; in 2007, a “fair amount of C level people moved from BlackBerry to iPhone,” and BYOD changed the landscape. For BlackBerry, the demise had begun.

Today, its platform is simply losing its luster. “Look at BlackBerry subscriber numbers,” Lam suggested. “They are on the decline.” In addition, the company waited a little too long to debut BB10, and the U.S. launch was admittedly botched.

The botch included a lack of marketing and mixed messaging, but one of the biggest bombs was with the significant lack of apps. This is especially true in the enterprise space, on which the company obviously depended on for its success.

Who Wants to Buy BlackBerry?
“It’s a tough call. Everyone who is doing well would be looking at this option but I’m not sure how good of a fit it will be,” Lam replied. While iOS and Android are becoming more and more entrenched in government and enterprise, Windows also has the potential, and the drive, to be that third eco-system. Meanwhile, some players, like Nokia, are struggling with handsets, while others - like NEC - have given up entirely on smartphones, even after being courted by Lenovo.

BB’s product portfolio also lacks a viable tablet and won’t even have one in the future, should the company continue. “The most valuable asset is its new operating system and all the IT they developed for mobile,” Lam said.

As recently as the June 28 earnings call, Heins was still talking about the company’s long-term strategy, when he 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 actually the word he chose.

That marathon appears to be over.

What does the CEO say now? “We continue to see compelling long-term opportunities for BlackBerry 10, we have exceptional technology that customers are embracing, we have a strong balance sheet and we are pleased with the progress that has been made in our transition,” Heins said in a statement. That is pretty much all we are going to get out of Heins, who has declined media interviews.
Related Content
BlackBerry Steps Back
Windows Knocks BlackBerry Down a Spot
The Fundamentals of BlackBerry Apps
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