BlackBerry’s bad day at the mobile office

CapturePoor sales of the Z10 and Q10 phones saw BlackBerry post a US$170 million loss. The triggered investors to pile out with US$2 billion wiped from the  stock price.

It doesn’t get much worse that this in tech.

BlackBerry failed to meet targets with its new phones. Indeed, older BlackBerry models outsold the new BlackBerry 10 models intended to turn the business around.

Running out of time

The company is running out of time and now has few options. Until now there was always the possibility a player like Lenovo would acquire BlackBerry. That now looks less likely.

Many observers saw the BlackBerry 10, the brand’s first modern smartphone operating system, as the last chance to stay relevant.

Solid not enough

Recently I tested the BlackBerry Z10, the first smartphone in New Zealand to run the new software. It’s a solid performer with plenty of nicely realised ideas and useful features. The Z10 hardware is as good as any from today’s top smartphone brands.

But it was too late. Blackberry let the market get away. I can’t find some of my favourite smartphone applications in the BlackBerry store – that will be a deal breaker for many potential buyers.

Clearly being “a solid performer” isn’t good enough for today’s smartphone buyers.

What’s left for BlackBerry?

Optimists might say sales of the Q10 smartphone with a qwerty keyboard could yet tick up; the model still isn’t available in New Zealand. I can’t see that making much difference. Nor do I put my faith in the A10 smartphone due later this year, which some say will be the most advanced phone when it arrives. We might as well be waiting for Godot.

On the other hand BlackBerry has made smart moves to become a software and services business specialising in mobile device management, The brand and the technologies are particularly appealing to large corporations struggling to deal with BYOD strategies and device proliferation.

In recent weeks the company announced plans to put the BlackBerry Messenger on Android and iOS devices. It also said it will offer its BlackBerry Secure Work Space on these mobile operating systems. What you could be seeing is the start of a new business model.

BlackBerry is still strong in the corporate technology space. It offers security and control, the two things CIOs want most in mobile technology. There could be a future beyond phones.

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