Can BlackBerry (BBRY) Survive Without Consumers?

In the wake of BlackBerry's (BBRY) financial bloodbath on Sept. 20--an expected Q2 huge revenue shortfall and a $995 million net operating loss--will the skeletal smartphone company have enough flesh on the bones to survive?

DH Kass, Senior Contributing Blogger

September 22, 2013

4 Min Read
Can BlackBerry (BBRY) Survive Without Consumers?

After this latest Q2 2013 financial tornado officially blows through BlackBerry (BBRY) on September 27– leaving 4,500 fewer employees, a revenue shortfall at $1.6 billion about half of Wall Street’s expectation, a GAAP net operating loss that could reach $995 million, and a paring of one-third of the company’s hardware lineup–will the skeletal company have enough flesh on the bones to survive?

Even though advance word had surfaced of the impending layoffs—about 35 percent of BlackBerry’s 12,700 workforce—the depth of the expected losses for the period were surprising, dashing the smartphone maker’s hopes, perhaps for good, of a return to its glory days. If the good old days are gone, what then, if anything, remains for BlackBerry?

The quick and easy—but unrevealing—answer is the “Special Committee of the Company’s Board of Directors continues to evaluate all strategic alternatives for the Company.” We already knew that but the compelling news along those lines that emerged on Friday was former BlackBerry chief Mike Lazaridis’ reported interest in making a private equity bid for the company, according to various accounts, including The New York Times. Lazaridis co-founded BlackBerry with Jim Balsillie almost 30 years ago but stepped aside in 2012 in favor of current chief Thorsten Heins.

Barring a sale, this is what appears to be BlackBerry’s strategic blueprint going forward:

  • Continue to aim at enterprise customers.

BlackBerry’s love affair with the professional end user knows no bounds. The company intends to target “prosumers” with two high-end units and two entry-level models, presented in all-touch and keyboard editions. The vendor also said it will “re-tier” the Z10 to make it more appealing to entry-level customers, but didn’t say who that is and why they’ll buy the re-jiggered device. 

  • Build on enterprise services in government and business accounts.

BlackBerry said it has more than 25,000 BES 10 commercial and test servers installed to date, up 6,000 from two months ago. “Our enterprise business continues to reflect the trust that governments and businesses have placed in the BlackBerry platform,” said Heins. “Security matters and enterprises know the gold standard in enterprise mobility is BlackBerry.”

And, what of its idea to license BB 10 in new and unusual ways? If the re-fashioned company still wants to try to make that happen, no mentioned was made of it last week. Nor was any new word leaked about spinning off the popular BBM service as a separate business.

Looking back to last Friday

As for the horrific news the company came forward with last Friday, the worst item the misfiring device maker disclosed may have been the 3.7 million smartphones it shipped last quarter, at 45 percent of the prior quarter a disappointing figure in itself made far worse by the fact that most of the units in question are BlackBerry 7’s and don’t run the company’s supposed comeback locomotive, the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

To be more precise, in Q2 BlackBerry sold some 5.9 million smartphones, including Z10s, to end customers but more than two million of those sales were consummated prior to the beginning of the period and did not count in the device maker’s accounting. Of its $1.6 billion in sales for Q2, about half came from services, BlackBerry said. The vendor blamed an approximate $960 million inventory and supply commitments write-down it plans to take for Q2 on poor sales of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone.

When the Q2 rubble is sorted through, BlackBerry will be left with about $2.6 billion in cash and investments and no debt.

“We are implementing the difficult, but necessary operational changes announced today to address our position in a maturing and more competitive industry, and to drive the company toward profitability,” said Heins.

“Going forward, we plan to refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user” he said. “This puts us squarely on target with the customers that helped build BlackBerry into the leading brand today for enterprise security, manageability and reliability.”

The problem with this Back to the Future approach is the smartphone times, and the competitive landscape, have changed. If this latest BlackBerry blueprint is faulty, you can look to the company getting parted out for its messenger service, patents and its enterprise services business because it will be the only option left.

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About the Author(s)

DH Kass

Senior Contributing Blogger, The VAR Guy

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