Announced today is another round of cuts to the people who have worked and toiled to make BlackBerry products the best on the market. Tragic for the families and the people involved as it allows other companies to poach highly talented people from the company. We have seen almost 10,000 employees (roughly) leave the company in the last couple of years alone. Most of these people have been cut from positions that were once Blackberry’s heart and soul; the hardware division. Blackberry phones used to be one of the hottest ticket items on the market, it was impossible to get one and harder to avoid the marketing around them. Years later and after multiple delays and downsizing we are at the company we see before us. Under John Chen who’s leadership has helped to return the company to before tax profitability and refocus the company. Blackberry has moved to becoming a security oriented software company with a major focus on enterprise and government. Yet, it does not have a clearly defined plan for its hardware division and because of this is leaving many Blackberry fans alienated and left behind by the company they so effectively supported through tough times.
Blackberry doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do with the hardware division in today’s modern Bring you own device (BYOD) world. It continues to make phones with an orientation on very small niche segments of the market or directly targeted towards businesses. It has failed to properly produce a phone that is designed for those of its loyal fan base that continues to support the company and I believe that we will see these people start to wither away. I myself am one of those people who pushed the Blackberry Brand, I own Blackberry stock and I have purchased a number of different phones through the company (up to 4 now) but yet I feel left behind by the company. I am using a Z30 currently which when released in September of 2013 was a high-medium tier phone at best. I purchased it because of its battery life, the screen and its size as compared to my Z10. I do like the phone (minus the issues I am having) but I feel that Blackberry does not care for me as a target audience anymore and doesn’t want me to continue to purchase phones from them. In the last 6-12 months we have seen BlackBerry release 3 phones; The Passport, The Classic and The Leap. The Passport is the only phone of the 3 I would consider getting because of its specifications and its build quality (along with a couple other items). The Blackberry Classic is designed for the 9900 user that couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt to the Q10. It’s extremely affordable because it cannibalized the same parts from the Q10’s that were never sold. It wasn’t designed for me as a consumer, it was designed for the CEO or the 40 year old who likes what he likes (or she). The Blackberry Leap isn’t again designed to surpass the Z30 it seems to be actually designed to replace the Z10. Again it uses many of the same parts as the Z10 and is no upgrade over the Z30. As a consumer this leaves me in a predicament; I have become accustomed to the full screen touch phones and would like to replace my Z30 with one such as that. It appears that BlackBerry has no plans to do something like this though and intends to focus on the small niche portions of the market.
This plan to focus on the niche portions of the market as an investor infuriates me because millions of dollars goes into research and development and there is limited to no return on that investment for the company. John Chen himself said that if he can get to 10 million phones annually that he will be able to make the hardware division profitable. Focusing on small market phones will not get BlackBerry to that number and nor will it help to make the company as a whole profitable. The small number of CEO’s and 40 year olds hanging onto their 9900’s were only worth investing that money into because of their influence in the decision making process of their companies. The Bring Your Own Device Market means for BlackBerry that many CEO’s have given up on providing employees with company phones for pleasure reasons and cost. This means that BlackBerry is going after an increasingly shrinking market with its enterprise and business oriented designs. This mindset leaves us the regular consumer and the Blackberry loyalists that the company is leaving behind. This is the largest portion of potential purchases and yet they have no plan oriented for them. How can you as a company leave this segment and not even makes the slightest attempt to target it. I understand as an investor you do not have the money to beat an Apple or a Google but I want you to at least to try. The Z10 sold incredibly well when it first came out because it’s what the market wanted. Lack of support, marketing and an immature operating system are what caused it demise. After 2+ years of growth we are seeing the BB10 phones operating system become more advanced, more stable and feature filled for more than your CEO or CIO. Yet the market has no idea of these advances and continues to think of BlackBerry phones as the one from 2008 that required excessive reboots and was slow.
Blackberry needs to come out with something that is going to entice the market even if it is just one or two people out of ten that walks into a carrier store or pops online shopblackberry.com. I know a number of people who would consider going back to Blackberry if they produced something that was worth having and was what they wanted. For example: A friend was ready to go out and purchase a new Blackberry phone and come over from an Iphone because she liked my Z30. The issue was that I wasn’t going to stick her on a 2 year plan with a phone that was 2 years old and going to be unsupported in the near future. The fact that Blackberry has no plans for a mainstream market phone also meant she crossed BlackBerry off her potential phone list. I would love to see BlackBerry support its fans and the market better than the way it has and appears to be doing so into the future. Provide the market with the reason to like you and your company again. If I was John Chen I would work this in a 2 year cycle now that North American carriers are off the 3 year plan bandwagon. BlackBerry could bring to market a large (5-5.5 inch) all touch with high end specifications which would appeal to the mass market. Along with that release a low end keyboard phone for the business world and the emerging markets. Year 2 release another phone like the passport which caters to the business market and release another lower/middle end all touch to replace the leap. This allows the market consumer to be catered too and allows an effective development and testing time. This also allows the business market to be catered to at a proper life cycle. When the original business phones start to die off then you release that new one after 2 years and companies know what to predict. I believe that this cycle could help Blackberry regain market share in both the enterprise and the consumer market. It would provide the employees of these enterprises with a proper option for their work and personal phones and make the company money. Blackberry needs to continue to develop its operating system in order to continue to keep its fans happy. This could easily be achieved with proper management of the inventory system making sure that excessive units are not produced.
A reply is a simple thing to do on your Facebook, most mobile phones are able to do it and it’s an important part of the social media experience but yet Blackberry 10.3.2 cannot. There are so many parts of the experience in Blackberry operating system that should be there and aren’t it’s surprising when you remember how old the operating system is. Blackberry continues to take members of its software team that would be used to keeping the operating system experience fresh, the apps new and feature filled and the experience exciting and cutting the positons or putting them elsewhere in the company. The experience on the phone lags down as it ages and it becomes less enjoyable for those who have the phone or want to buy one. I really do hate how much effort that 3rd party application developers have made to create their apps and make them look stunning to have the company give up on the consumer market. Blaq and Igrann are two of my favorite applications because they do the job so well and they serve the market perfectly but they have limited support from BlackBerry. What is the point in building for Blackberry when it seems that the company itself doesn’t even want to put the time or the effort into it. How do you expect to keep customers or to expand your customer base when your phone looks old, feels old and acts old. BlackBerry faltered because its other operating system aged and couldn’t keep up with the market demands and with a lack of investment we will see that here as well. Bugs within the system are ruining the experience for the customer in both enterprise and the consumer base. For example with regards to calling where the call screen glitches and takes its time to switch over; only to have the person calling hang up because they don’t realize that you don’t know that they are connected. I talked to my carriers support staff and this affected more than just me it was affecting businesses running the same phone. Businesses with 20+ phones running BB10 that were dropped because of these bugs. The company can always be more nimble but when you gut the software division that makes the phone tick and makes it look nice it takes a massive toll. No matter what you do to the security and the safety if the phone in today’s BYOD world if people don’t like it then they won’t want it. A pen and paper is an extremely safe way of keeping information but people don’t use it as much because it’s not convenient for most tasks and it’s a hassle to use.
I understand the reasons behind the move to the enterprise and the government. Its BlackBerry’s safe zone but that zone is getting smaller and smaller as companies look to reduce costs by allowing their employees to use their own phones. We need to see some type of investment into the other side as well here in order to try and keep the fan base happy along with entice new people. The company doesn’t need to compete with Apple or Google and nor should it. It does need to keep the fan base that is keeping the company alive though and try to expand itself by producing what the market wants even if it is only in smaller quantities. Today’s acquisition of AdHoc is another step in making sure the company is strong for the enterprise and governments in emergencies. This is a good buy as it entices them but you already have their confidence and their money. You need to find new money that you started to lose after 2008-2009 consumer base collapse and try to win some of that back.
Blackberry I have owned 4 phones from you now. I have been with the company through the transition from BBOS to BB10. I supported you with the Z10 and the Z30 but you are leaving me to dry here with this nonsense of the enterprise and software only idea. I want to support you but you have to give me a reason to and at this point there isn’t much reason. If it wasn’t for the fact that I purchased my Z30 only 6 months ago and I lack the funds required for a new phone; I would be gone and so would my money. I want to see this company survive and see it flourish but killing off the reasons I as a consumer can support you doesn’t do much for me. Your loyal fanbase is more than just the enterprise and governments. It’s regular people who love the phones you produce for their build quality, their battery and the operating system. If you are going to kill it then do so and put us out of our misery of waiting but if not then give us something to look forward to. The consumer market is the enterprise market and you need to realize this. As a fan, an investor and a blackberry owner you need to do better, need to be better and need to support those who have supported you; enterprise and consumer.