Beleaguered BlackBerry: We’re not about phones anymore

“Don’t worry, BlackBerry fans: Your favorite smartphone with that keyboard you love is sticking around for the time being. But that’s not what BlackBerry is about anymore,” James O’Toole reports for CNN Money. “‘Everything we’re doing is to bring solutions for our enterprise customers,’ said John Sims, one of BlackBerry’s chief lieutenants, at the wireless industry’s trade show in Las Vegas this week.”

“Sims, who heads up BlackBerry’s business and government division, said BlackBerry believes it can still make money in the device business from its niche of loyal users — the ones “that are still holding together, with bubble gum or tape or whatever, their BlackBerry Bolds,” O’Toole reports. “Its focus, however, will be providing software and services to business customers, particularly those in heavily regulated sectors like finance and insurance that demand top-notch security.”

“There’s a still a long way to go in the turnaround effort, and in the meantime, the company faces challenges from competitors like Apple and IBM, which announced a partnership in July to sell iPhones and iPads with specialized business software,” O’Toole reports. “Sims said that when he started holding outside meetings earlier this year, ‘the first question customers asked was ‘Are you guys going to be around in a couple of years?” Sims said that those concerns have eased as BlackBerry’s turnaround plans have come into focus, but the company’s future is still far from certain.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Seriously, just how important is that mechanical keyboard, really? We’ve used them. Meh. To the three Luddites left still using BlackBerry devices because they supposedly love the keyboard, we have a message: Get over it. Your phone sucks. You’re missing out on virtually everything for something that is utterly meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “buddabob” and “Edward W.” for the heads up.]

42 Comments

  1. As with all keyboards, the question is : is it easy to use without mistakes. Do you like it or not.

    User interface is always evolving.

    With the iPad and larger phones, mistakes may go down.

    Don’t write off physical keyboards COMPLETELY just yet from all companies for all customers. Innovation is not done.

    For example, my Apple keyboard for iMac is very nice. So are some keyboards from Apple competitors.

    1. Who even writes anymore when you can dictate your message a lot faster. I find myself doing that more and more. The larger iPhones with the keyboard of your choice will also negate the need for anyone to use Blackberry’s antiquated mechanical keyboards. If there’s anyone left that is.

      1. You have to realize that the USA is not the rest of the world! BlackBerry is still doing very well in eastern countries. Americans don’t seems to see beyond their country. Frankly the amount of times iPhone and iPads have been hacked and the back door to the NSA, it has little or no respect for people’s privacy .

        1. I haven’t heard of any widespread hacking of iPhones and iPads lately except for the brief breach of iCloud accounts of celebrities. I’m not sure it matters if you’re in any eastern country as the dictating technology is still available. I have heard Blackberry was doing well in certain counties primarily because of it’s more clandestine and private network advantages, not whether it had a physical keyboard or not.

        2. The IBM deal may be their big threat. If IBM has servers outside the USA that can rout text and/ or email without going through the NSA than Blackberry has lost it’s greatest advantage. IBM’s 24/7 support and understanding of IT needs is something Apple, and Android, has not had. Having sales staff who have connections with the people who do purchasing, a lot of times have no idea what IT does, is a big blow to Blackberry. With tablets, and now phablets BB has nothing to offer. If, and a big if, IBM can avoid the NSA than that gives Apple the best customers in the world. Blackberry’s.

  2. Imagine if he uttered those words in 2006. He would’ve been fired on the spot. Steve Jobs hit them with such a force on January 9, 2007 that they’re still feeling the pain more than seven years later. Amazing how Blackberry never even managed to get off the mat once. The ref only had to count to 4.

  3. At this point, I think BlackBerry should be about their alternate take on “smartphone.” I think there are still enough users left who DO want a smartphone built around a physical keyboard, to make such a “niche” product worthwhile. Whereas iPhone (and Android) are going LARGE, make a BlackBerry smartphone that is extremely small. Give it a relatively small non-touch screen. Take a cue from Apple Watch, and make the “roller” (scrolling wheel) mechanism a key part of the interface. The battery should last for a week of typical usage, on one charge.

    In other words, do what NO ONE ELSE has the courage to do, and produce the “anti-iPhone.” Apple had such courage; the original iPhone was the “anti-BlackBerry.” Look what happened…

      1. A snap-on keyboard does not make iPhone any smaller, or increase battery life, or change the overall touch-based interface. It just makes the iPhone larger and heavier, and probably reduces battery life. And it’s still an iPhone, with an ugly attachment. Those customer who actually buy a snap-on keyboard for their iPhone would probably consider buying a new BlackBerry, if there was a viable AND desirable choice. THAT is the niche. The fact that there are such third-party “snap-on keyboards for iPhones” proves this niche exists.

        As I said, BlackBerry should produce the “anti-iPhone”; a phone that is deliberately NOT an iPhone copy. Focus on making it everything iPhone is NOT. It would not threaten iPhone (and Androids) dominance, but I think it would sell in sufficient numbers (to those “snap-on keyboard for iPhone” customers) to make it worthwhile. It would probably beat Windows Phone. 😉

    1. ken1w, I think you’re totally right, but the problem is when they don’t do what others are doing, they’re lost. So for example, with the display, they released the Passport… with a square display. Or when they thought that the problem with touchscreens was the lack of tactile feedback and so they made you click the whole display for each tap.

      Really though, they lost the market a long time ago. They should be focusing on an exit strategy.

      1. Before, during first few years of iPhone (and Android), BlackBerry’s goal was to retain their dominant position. That’s why they were “lost,” because they could not come up with a viable strategy to make that happen. iPhone was simply better for MOST smartphone users. But NOT ALL smartphone users. There is still a small percentage who would prefer the simple and efficient old-school BlackBerry interface.

        That’s where BlackBerry is today. “They lost the market a long time ago.” True, but their pre-iPhone concept for a smartphone interface is not bad. Look at that picture MDN often shows, with prototype Android phone before and after iPhone. BlackBerry was what the competition copied (before iPhone), because it was successful.

        The goal from BlackBerry today should be to produce and sell a profitable product, not to beat iPhone and Android. They can do that by going back and refining their original concept for a smartphone. Most users will ignore it at this point, but that remaining “niche” will probably be quite interested and give it some consideration the next time they pick a smartphone. It think it would beat Windows Phone, to become the (distant) third smartphone platform..

        1. I hear what you’re saying, and I was saying the same exact thing a couple of years ago. However now, I don’t think BlackBerry even has enough of the remnants to continue to produce phones and return to profit.

          Not only that but they’re caught in a terrible position where if they focus on the remnants, they’d be producing low-cost/low-margin phones.

          Also, all of this is like trying to give college advice to an F student. Sure, if BlackBerry had the people like Apple has, you could say, “Look, play to your strengths and do one thing really well that nobody else is doing or doing right.” However, look at what BlackBerry has been doing… the Passport *is* their attempt to provide a modern phone to their remnants.

          At this point, they should look at no longer losing money in R&D on phones, and just crank out old school BlackBerry devices to the remnants while they’re still buying, and focus on assets that have a future (like QNX).

          With an enterprise value of 4.25 Billion when they had a loss of more than 7 Billion last year.. and only have 2 Billion in cash, means that they’ve got some very tough choices they’re going to need to be making sooner rather than later.

          Really at this point, even focusing on assets like QNX is too late for them and it really should all be about exit strategy.

  4. In BBRYs defense, they got hit with a double whammy. The keyboard thing was just one issue. The main problem was that they couldn’t just flip to Android like every one else did, they had their reputation for security to preserve. They had to stick to their guns and hope for survival.

    In the mean time, once their engineers got ahold of an iPhone, their reaction was (paraphrased) Holy Crap! There’s a whole computer in there! (I really wish I could point to a source, but I can’t remember where I read that. It was from an ex-RIM employee relating their first exposure to the iPhone’s innards).

    While I cringe at the poor decisions of their executives, I admire their tenacity and hope they abandon their handset business and have great success in their security and security infrastructure endeavors.

    I think BBRY would be a better purchase decision for Apple than Beats ever was.

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