Apple should buy BlackBerry and sell lower-priced iOS-powered phones and tablets under the BlackBerry brand

By SteveJack

For as long as Apple has been Apple there have been calls for the company to make “affordable products.” By this, most mean lower price tags. They’re not talking value or Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). When you bring those ideas into the discussion, Apple’s prices are very low indeed. No, this is all about price tags. People want Apple to sell products for less, so that more people can use them and – side benefit – it hurts those ripping off Apple’s intellectual property to produce cut-rate facsimiles of Apple’s innovations. Android, I’m looking at you.

One major problem: Offering low priced products is, as Apple’s leadership likes to say, “not part of Apple’s DNA.” This is a nice way of saying: We can’t dominate entire markets (outside of the fluke iPod/iTunes Store) because it would irrecoverably damage the Apple brand or as Steve Jobs once said, “We can’t do it; we just can’t ship junk.” More recently, this has been parroted by Tim Cook: “There’s always a large junk part of the market. We’re not in the junk business.”

I have a solution that satisfies everyone: Buy an established brand (on the cheap, no less) and design and market products for mid-tier consumers. There are other possibilities – other brands, creating your own (quite expensive) – but the BlackBerry brand would fit the bill quite nicely. No sense letting a widely-known brand just whiter away to nothing.

What would happen if Apple bought the BlackBerry brand and soon after, this new BlackBerry announced two products to start: A brand new 5-inch BlackBerry smartphone and a brand new 7.9-inch BlackBerry tablet, both of which are powered by Apple A-series processors, run iOS 7, and connect to the App Store (or the “BlackBerry App Store” which just so happens to mirror exactly what’s in Apple’s App Store)? Remember now, these aren’t junky products we’re talking about, these will be quality mid-tier Jony Ive-designed products. They will offer quality components and excellent build quality, they just won’t be the very latest, highest-end stuff. BlackBerry will be the best of the mid-tier, not at all low-end. (Bold emphasis added following initial comments below.)

Here’s what I think would happen: Apple iPhones and iPads would continue to own the high-end smartphone and tablet markets. BlackBerry smartphones and tablets would crush Android in the highly-profitable mid-tier (the low-end can keep buying junk). Apple would, of course, keep all of the money (instead of watching Samsung bank all of that non-Apple revenue using products based on Apple’s IP). iOS market share would rapidly overtake Android; first in the U.S. and then quickly spread elsewhere around the developed world. Even though the mid-tier BlackBerry users wouldn’t buy as many apps, patronize as many ads, spend as much money on services, etc. as Apple user, they would be iOS users. This would only make developers even more enthusiastic about developing for iOS. Many would lose interest in Android rather quickly. Android et al. would be relegated to the low-end. Google would be sucking fumes in mobile advertising. iAd would dominate. Plus, all of these new BlackBerry users would be far more primed to graduate to Apple devices next than even the Android settlers are now.

Mini Cooper has worked very nicely for BMW. BlackBerry could work even better for Apple.

Apple should buy BlackBerry for the brand and use it to preserve the Apple’s brand cachet while hitting Android and Samsung where it hurts, relegating Google’s wannabe OS and Samsung’s wannabe devices to the junk liquidation warehouses where they belong.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, former web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.


    1. Apple on-shore CPU/LCD Fab Plant, if you want to spend 4-10 billion. Or bring back 15 billion and pay 5 billion in taxes and build that fab plant. (Note the avg. American pays 20% to 35% in taxes anyway). Do anything except give money to Icahn or buy Blackberry.

    1. I agree. Stevejack is usually spot on but…..”People want Apple to sell products for less, so that more people can use them and – side benefit – it hurts those ripping off Apple’s intellectual property to produce cut-rate facsimiles of Apple’s innovations. Android, I’m looking at you.” means selling cheap stuff.

      You cannot make an iPhone and sell it for less than what it costs for parts, build, design, shipping, stores, planning, etc costs. All those costs come into play not just the parts.

      Sure, its nice when costs come down a year after its new, but that is accounting for lower costs of parts and operation. (PS, do not forget about the Billions it costs Apple for the factory special parts it buys and ships to the plants)).

      Just saying.

    1. Did you not read this at all? I mean, it even used an automobile industry example to support the premise! A lot of high-end carmakers own lower-end brands as well, so they can rake in profits from the mid- and low-tier buyers while still keeping the prestige of their main top-tier brand.

      I’m not saying Apple should do it, but I am saying you shouldn’t spout off an ignorant, poorly-formed critique when the article already gives working examples of what you’re using to debunk it.

      1. Oh well if it used an auto industry example then it must be right. No, thats not correct. In fact its a bad example.
        The auto industry in the USA is a pile of debt and bad design and it still can’t produce decent long-lasting low consumption vehicles without partnering with the Japanese.
        Blackberry has no good software, they don’t have a good set of hardware and they are falling fast in market share.
        ‘No sense letting a widely-known brand just wither away to nothing.’ Er, YES there is if its junk.
        Forget Blackberry – just another Canadian company that thought it owned the world until the iPod and then the iPhone came along.
        Hubris (still in evidence there) and general stupidity and poor analysis. Thats RIM for you.
        They talk about the touchscreen like it was the only reason they screwed up.
        Not the case.
        The touchscreen from Apple allowed ANY keyboard to be displayed, any web page, any document.
        Plus the built-in iPod and the App store and all the other advantages of a company that has decades of experience at the highest level.
        Very stupid article – in fact its another example of MDN’s hit-whoring to keep the advertising dollars flowing.
        I tire of this site and its lack of UTILITY, and the foolish comments and lousy articles it links to…

        1. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that Bayerische Motoren Werke AG was an American automobile maker. How is BMW, and the success of the MINI brand that it owns, a bad example to support the author’s point?

          And did I say that Apple should buy BBRY? No. I’ve been against it every time someone’s brought it up. But I also can’t stand when ignoramuses like yourself get their panties in a bunch because you can’t read or follow a logical argument.

          You don’t like MDN? Nobody’s forcing you to come to this site.

  1. I thought my idea of Apple creating a Appsung brand for cheap crud like the stuff Samsung likes to push out was pretty ridiculous until I read this one.

    I mean this not only makes no sense but it actually costs money.

      1. SteveJack deserves high criticism for this article.

        SteveJack wasn’t alone in his prediction of what iPhone should be. Did SteveJack predict the new Mac Pro, the iPad, the Apple TV, and such? They’ve all come since 2002.

        A successful prediction in 2002 does not mean that this article isn’t terrible. I mean, his prediction was over 4 years too early. Will you give Gene Munster the credit same credit you’re giving SteveJack if Apple ever releases a TV set?

  2. Sometimes I respect SteveJack’s commentary – but this is just pointless. Apple could save a bundle by not buying BBerry and sell crap under another name for a lot less money. The blackberry brand – as a brand only, is not worth billions. They could call the new company Blueberry and it would sell as well.

  3. Huh? I have higher expectations of this author.

    A piece of junk is still a piece of junk, no matter what name is on it. Same reason Tiffany&Co doesn’t own a subsidiary that sells costume jewelry in the middle of the mall. Your Mini Cooper metaphor is poor also. A Mini Cooper is still a well built vehicle. It is priced lower than a BMW because it is a smaller vehicle without the need for BMW performance. But the fit and finish is not cheap by car standards.

    Consumers have the cell phone expense equation backwards. The service is expensive, not the device. With a new/renewed contract an iPhone is virtually free when you factor in end-of-life resale value. Just because consumers are dumb, doesn’t mean Apple needs to cater to them. A premium iPhone continues to be the best value proposition on the market today. Apple simply needs to continue to educate consumers directly through marketing or indirectly as consumers begin to experience these devices.

    Like I said, the device is virtually free over its life. The service contract is at minimum $1200 over two years. Just because Android users who have been swayed by cheaper (upfront costs only) devices are stupid, doesn’t mean Apple needs to write a billion(s) dollar check to cater to these mopes.

    Your corollary doesn’t make everyone happy – this shareholder doesn’t want Apple wasting its time on low margin devices simply to gain a seat at the arbitrary market share table.

      1. Not when the secondary brand can do more reputation damage than it can help the income statement. Other companies have proven quite extensively that it’s near impossible to make money on cheaper devices. You can’t market your way out of that problem.

      2. The Apple ‘brand’ is utility, quality and value; in other words, the Apple ‘brand’ is the result of the attributes of its design and the execution of that design and not the vacuous wordplay of some ‘copy’ of a marketing/advertising wonk–which IS how branding works.

    1. I like the Idea of Apple buying Blackberry, but NOT turning it into a lower end brand. On the contrary, I think it should be a lower volume high end business brand ala the mac pro with high margins. A pro business secure no nonsense brand. That’s what Blackberry was, it was never meant to be a mass market consumer brand for the everyman.

  4. The only valuable asset that RIM has is its patent portfolio so the only reason to buy it is to keep it from being bought by someone else (i.e. Google in the worst case scenario). Perhaps the Rockstar consortium should purchase it as they did with the Nortel patents.

      1. They would also have to face antitrust accusations, something that Microsoft and Google didn’t have to deal with when they bought Nokia and Motorola respectively

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