Today, news came out that Blackberry (a.k.a Research In Motion) was weighing options for putting itself up for sale. I can’t say this comes as a surprise – after multiple delays in the QNX/BB10/whatever you want to call it OS, Blackberry only produced a phone on par with the competition. By that time, it had already lost a lot of it’s consumer base to Apple’s iPhone and phones running Google’s Android OS. What made this process more painful to watch was the whole playbook fiasco (of which yours truly bought one on sale for $199 and then never used it) – creating a great piece of hardware running a different software than the phone – forcing developers to create two versions of software. Of course, no developer found this enticing hence no apps were ever to be found.
In my previous post (really pointing to a great commentary about Tesla) – the author talks about industry incumbents and failure to adapt. That sounds pretty bang on to what happened to the darling of the smart phone industry – failure to adapt to the growing needs of their consumer base. This commentary from 2011 on BGR.com sums up the lack of vision and slow adoption of customer needs. What peaked my interest was a quote: “The fact that people are spending their own money to buy the iPhone, when their company is giving them a ‘free BlackBerry’ sends quite a message to RIM.” Well, apparently, it didn’t and the company was forced to play catchup.
Today, the company’s new Q10 and Z10 phones are not selling as well as anticipated. I’ve played with the Z10 and can say from a typing perspective, it is spectacular – I can’t mistype on that device – whereas both my iPhone and android phones had me cringing every time autocorrect corrected something. Problem still remains that without apps, what good is good hardware (or a good OS?). And what good is a phone that’s good for typing but can’t do anything else?
Investors are feeling positive about the company’s move to put itself up for sale, driving share prices up 10% today. My view is it’s probably a little too late from a long-term investment perspective. Apple and Google continue to gain market share creating an even greater gap for Blackberry to overcome (at least in the phone business). What I always thought they should have done in 2010/2011 is partnered up with the other laggards in the industry and take bits and pieces from each company’s strengths to come up with something above the competition. A partnership of:
- Blackberry / RIM – lost focus with the customer; strong hardware capabilities, secure email/messaging, business users and still had a large number of followers
- Nokia – to quote my previous post: “making fun colors or round keypad phones instead of smarter phones”; was still #1 manufacturer at the time due mostly from “non-smart” phones; failed Symbian OS but early adopter of the Microsoft mobile OS platform
- Microsoft – tried to create a lighter version of Windows to run on mobile platforms; working with multiple companies might have helped spread the use of the mobile OS more; also might have put it in a better position to compete against Android, especially given that tablets now still quite aren’t up to par with notebook productivity
But of course, that’s in theory / pie-in-the-sky thinking – and I’ll leave that to some MBA-case-like study of how that partnership would all work.
Ed Note: In full disclosure, the author does not hold any shares in any of the companies mentioned above, nor are there plans to in the near future.