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Open letter to customers: 'You can continue to count on BlackBerry'

Matt Hamblen | Oct. 16, 2013
One analyst says 'that's silly,' and urges the phone maker to commit to enterprise network support for 18 months

The secure network that BlackBerry touts in its latest letter is indeed a bright spot and potentially worth $4.5 billion. It is a combination of a network operations center in Canada that connects through 500 carriers globally to enterprise-based servers running the BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) software.

BlackBerry claims in the letter and elsewhere that its latest version of that software, called BES 10, grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000 customers deploying and testing the software. Surely that's an important increase, but it's not at all clear whether any of the newly added customers will want to stay very long with BES 10.

But an important concern with BES 10 is that while it is able to manage iOS and Android devices as well as BlackBerry devices, it doesn't have the full management capabilities over iOS and Android devices that it has with BlackBerry smartphones. That distinction leaves an IT shop with an abundance of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) users who want to use iPhones and Android phones at work at a potentially weaker position than if the IT shop purchased a mobile device management platform from a third-party vendor. These MDM companies are focused heavily on iOS and Android, and even on Windows Phone, ahead of BlackBerry.

Another bright spot for potential investors is that BlackBerry has patents that could be worth up to $3 billion, but that's hardly something that would matter to many BlackBerry customers. Having BlackBerry patents would assure a future entity that it could seek license revenues with those patents or potentially bar competitors from moving ahead with BlackBerry technology.

BlackBerry in its letter even touts its new smartphones as offering the best range of devices for "getting things done." The Z10 and the Q10 got rave reviews from critics for many their functions, including user interface innovations, but neither has garnered the kinds of sales that BlackBerry needs. Meanwhile, Samsung and Apple, among others, keep releasing smartphones that trump BlackBerry's — phones with more powerful processors, or processors on 64-bit computing, and with unusual features like a fingerprint sensor for security.

The effect of BlackBerry's falling behind in consumer-pleasing smartphone features has been truly devastating despite the Blackberry's advantages for the enterprise. As Bob Egan, an analyst at Sepharim Group, put it on Tuesday, BlackBerry's supportive enterprise base of users has been isolated from the rest of the smartphone competitive ecosystem.

"What BlackBerry said [in its open letter] was 'trust us, we have cash and no debt.' In the face of delayed product launches, massive writedowns and competitively orphaning its enterprise base for years, [that] just seems silly," Egan said.

Egan and other analysts said that customers must notice that BlackBerry's open letter doesn't mention that the company has put itself up for sale, and instead has used terms like "restructuring" and "making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry."


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