BlackBerry RIP (image 001)

You can tell the end is nigh when a company buys full-page print ads to post an open letter making the case for its future. In the case of Canada’s BlackBerry, formerly Research In Motion, the writing has been on the wall ever since Steve Jobs took the stage at the January 2007 MacWorld Expo to introduce the world to the iPhone.

Given its former co-CEO’s state of denial and just plain stubbornness, I’d written off BlackBerry in my book long before first signs of trouble became public knowledge. Of course, BlackBerry continues to defy critics by insisting that it’ll find a way out of the hole it’d dug for itself.

Starting tomorrow, the BlackBerry feel-good aimed at customers, developers and investors will appear in over 30 major print newspapers across nine countries, including The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal in the United States.

Here’s the crux…

The letter, signed by the BlackBerry team, opens with the familiar theme.

“You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry,” reads the opening passage. “You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.”

The message couldn’t be clearer: you can count on BlackBerry. According to The Washington Post, BlackBerry’s critical business customers will receive a copy of the letter Tuesday morning.

BlackBerry Z30 (front)

The rest of BlackBerry’s message makes some compelling arguments regarding the company’s future and why it’s the force to be reckoned with. Specifically, BlackBerry’s bread-and-butter software for business and government users – often hailed for its security and reliability – is being cited as the key differentiating factor that will ensure company survival.

BlackBerry’s chief marketing officer explained in an interview with The Washington Post that the company has no debt and has $2.6 billion on its balance sheet. Interestingly enough, never does the team mention any of the recently launched or upcoming devices.

Although the company will continue to research and support handsets running its BlackBerry 10 platform, it is clear now that the leadership team is re-positioning BlackBerry as a government and corporate software and security services company.

Interestingly enough, former Apple CEO John Sculley in July offered a word of advice to BlackBerry: drop hardware and focus on messaging and services.

Here’s the message in its entirety:

To our valued customers, partners and fans,

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.

We have one important message for you:

You can continue to count on BlackBerry.

How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.

We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.

These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.

One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.

And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.

Best in class productivity tool.

We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Best in class security.

Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.

Best in class enterprise mobility management.

We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.

This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.

And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.

Best in class mobile social network.

We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM launch for Android and iPhone.

There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.

We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.

You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own: You can continue to count on us.

Sincerely,
The BlackBerry Team

A spokesperson told Adam Zeis of CrackBerry that BlackBerry simply wants to reassure the millions of its users that the company is still standing strong.

In case you didn’t read through the whole thing, the letter mentions that the forthcoming BlackBerry Messenger app for iOS and Android devices may launch to some serious pent-up demand as more than six million people subscribed to email notifications when the service goes live.

The app was submitted to Apple in early-September, but got pulled after an Android build leaked on the web (plus, a user guide leaked back in August).

BlackBerry Messenger launched back in 2005 as one of the first platform-specific messaging services. And, despite the company’s continued struggles, it still remains extremely popular with over 60 million active users detected using the app monthly.

bbm 1

As you know, BlackBerry is slashing 40 percent of its workforce and warned investors to brace themselves for more $1+ billion quarterly loss over unsold device inventory. The once mighty smartphone has admitted defeat by retreating from the consumer market due to increasing competition from Apple, Samsung and Google’s Android.

As a result, the board has greenlit the plan to put BlackBerry up for a sale as the business approaches the point of no return. Fairfax Financial Holdings, which already owns 9.9 percent of BlackBerry, made a $4.7 billion offer which would take the free-falling phone company private.

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BlackBerry’s ex co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsille. Image via AllThingsD.

A recent filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission indicates that BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin, who currently hold an eight percent ownership stake, are also considering bidding for BlackBerry.

As the Canadian smartphone vendor puts up a fight of its life to stay afloat, Apple has been caught poaching BlackBerry talent via a recruitment drive near its offices in Ontario, offering up both relocation and immigration assistance to hirable candidates.

Of course, BlackBerry hasn’t really been silent amid all of this – see its official @BBM and @BlackBerry Twitter channels for updates.

Reality check: BlackBerry has eroded to three percent of worldwide smartphone share.

So, what do you think of this?

Was BlackBerry wise to pen this open letter of reassurance to customers or does it expose their weakness and defensible position?

And do they have much to lose at this point?

Sound off with your thoughts down in the comments.

  • JeanMarc

    If Black berry launched BBM 4 years ago on every platform at $5.00 on the app stores. They would have made millions. But they were blinded by their success. Same thing is happening to Nintendo. Imagine if they release Mario or Pokemon on the AppStore. They would make millions.

    • xSeriouSx

      They would have made millions and missed billions on handset/console sales. Hardware is significantly more valuable than software….

      • Jacob S

        Yeah sure, they are making “billions” on their new handsets nowadays! lol

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Could they not have both? If anything they could use mobile gaming as a platform to advertise their consoles…

      • xSeriouSx

        But then they’ll have to make shitty games for iOS, which will backfire by destroying their reputation in making great games…then a lot less people will buy their console. If they make a good console quality game for iOS, a lot of people would pay something like $20 (or less) for it, and barely anyone would pay for their $100+ console.

        In both cases, a lot less people will buy their console, not saying a lot of people do at the moment.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        “In both cases, a lot less people will buy their console, not saying a lot of people do at the moment.”
        This for me is exactly why Nintendo should make games for mobile. I don’t have any stats to back this up but I’m pretty sure more people don’t by their console than the people that do buy it. Besides if things like Steam OS take off hardware will become irrelevant as there will be a wide range of consoles to choose from. Now at this point I’m probably talking too much so I’m going to shut up considering this article is not about Nintendo or mobile gaming in general.

      • Matthew Irwin

        I don’t think so. Look at the Rayman games. Jungle Run was customized for a touch interface and was genious. Origins was the best 2D platformer I’ve ever played in my life aside from Super Mario World. I bought them both and I am very happy. The point is, touch devices are a completely different platform. To release the exact same game on console and touch hardly ever works. Nintendo is blinded by their own arrogance, not to mention doomed by their jumbo-sized wii u controller that is way to big/heavy for the children they are marketing to

      • xSeriouSx

        That’s Ubisoft sir, does Ubisoft make hardware/consoles? No. One of the highest profit App devs is Rovio, last time I heard, their annual profit was something in the 17 Million. That’s a fraction of Nintendo’s quarterly profits.

      • Matthew Irwin

        I’m aware that Ubisoft makes the Rayman games and does not make consoles. Let me explain to you the implied logic that I figured you would see: Why do people buy consoles? For the games. If game sales are not affected, then why would consoles be either? If Mario touch comes out, a side scroller with touch-based controls, people are not going to be less likely to want to play the new Mario Galaxy. Rayman did not suffer from this connection, as they are different things. In fact, I would say that, if anything, the touch game helped to boost sales of the console game since its good performance and awards piqued interest

      • xSeriouSx

        “If game sales are not affected, then why would consoles be either?”

        ‘Cause one is software the other is hardware….

        “If Mario touch comes out, a side scroller with touch-based controls, people are not going to be less likely to want to play the new Mario Galaxy.”

        I disagree, ’cause I know myself; I’ve had very interactive games on my PSP that I wouldn’t bother buying on my PS3. If Nintendo releases a just-as interactive mario game for iOS, then I wouldn’t be paying for it on Wii (that’s if I had a Wii).

    • ConduciveMammal

      Millions is very little in comparison to what a company of such a size should be bringing in

    • kadeem kadz Dulice

      Yooo Pokemon Battles !! … would be the shit id start pack playing lol i swear loool

      • kadeem kadz Dulice

        were we talking bout blackberries ??

    • Jack Wong

      Nintendo might turn into another Sega, I wish they do, I really want to collect all those Mario, Zelda… on iPad. And I don’t have an iPad.

      EDIT:

      What is Blackberry trying to do? I don’t understand it, look at Nokia.

  • xSeriouSx

    Hahaha, like the first image…BTW, already have BBM on my 4s, haven’t used it once though

    • Palmer Paul

      ikr…I can’t believe someone would pay money to get that gravestone made

      • chumawumba

        Looks like a render

      • Jo

        photoshop

  • chumawumba

    fak u blackberry

    • Dredge

      Dude please GTFO. I know you’re a hardcore fanboy but your lack of intelligence is really annoying. Keep seeing you display your retardness on many articles like an uncontrollable hiccup.

  • Riley Freeman

    they’ve screwed up so many times. launching the z10 in canada was more expensive on a contract than the iphone = made no sense.

    you cant launch a new platform with minimal app suport and charge people a premium product price tag. they should have made their phones $0 – $50 on a contract, that way you would have sold more and contracts lock people in for 2 years. that 2 years would have given you time to improve your product and gain app support.

    when you have the wrong people in charge, this is the result.

    they screwed up again by pulling bbm from both markets when one was screwing up the network. ios version was fine and not causing issues, they should have left it, this would have allowed it to gain even more traction and get it out there and the word of mouth to spread. when it would have finally launched on android, people would have been more hyped for it because they couldnt gain access. think instagram prior to it coming to android.

    i am canadian and RIM is dead unless they get rid of everyone that is currently in charge right now.

  • Jacob S

    to me it is very simple formula balck=Epic, berry=Failure lol

    • bobby_turner

      That typo really screwed you over.

      • Jacob S

        fixed lol

  • ✪ aidan harris ✪

    Blackberry will remain irrelevant as long as their devices run their woeful OS. They either need to somehow perform the impossible and improve the image of their OS or build launchers on top of other OS’s (Android) or even fork Android to modify it themselves (Amazons kindle devices). Android isn’t great but it’s a lot better than their OS. If they started making devices with the Android operating system I bet their popularity would instantly improve.

  • Abdl

    What a pity! Im still rocking bbm on my iphone though…

  • Kevin Guzman

    The company I work for used to be all about BlackBerry 3+ years ago. There was maybe one person using an iPhone out of the 800 people in the building. Now, there is literally only one person still using BlackBerry because he’s too stubborn about the iPhone not having a keyboard. BlackBerry really screwed it up with their OS on their new devices because BlackBerry 10 is definitely not user friendly. Even if you were an avid BB back then, you would have no clue how to use the new Q10 or Z10. Sorry BB, but you guys are done.