To say that things have gone well for BlackBerry at any point in the past 8 or 9 years is probably overstating that point.
Over the past few years, most of the comments the company has drawn have focused on the wonder of its continued existence given how the consumer market has shifted completely, totally, and rapidly from its core product.
But, whatever may be said about BlackBerry since 2007, it cannot be said that it is not a stubborn group of Canadians.
The acquisition – especially the company’s large and valuable cache of patents and other intellectual property rights – has long been speculated upon upon release, but it never really seems to materialize. Fairfax Financial reached a tentative deal in 2013, but that deal fell through when John Chen was appointed CEO. Four days later, the board of directors determined that a dissolution and sale of BlackBerry was not in the best interests of its shareholders. Rumors of acquisition by Microsoft or Samsung never got past the rumor phase.
“We are committed to reclaiming our success,” Chen wrote in an open post on the company’s blog.
Unfortunately for BlackBerry, consumers haven’t shown quite the same commitment to helping them get there.
However, in November 2015, a faint but very bright glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon regarding BlackBerry’s mobile device activity: the Priv.
Ditch their internal operating system and jump on the Android bandwagon, but with some very BlackBerry customizations around design and security.
“While the Priv UI is simple and beautiful, BlackBerry has performed extensive surgery under the hood to increase Android’s privacy and security capabilities,” noted BlackBerry Security Officer David Kleidermacher. “Android is a complex, rapidly evolving and very popular open source product, which makes it an attractive and fertile target for attackers. Such an environment demands world-class security incident response, and BlackBerry has long offered this to customers with the most valuable resources under their (and therefore our) protection. BlackBerry’s vulnerability patch program is unmatched in the industry.
And, in a sort of change of pace from BlackBerry, the device has been well reviewed and slated to potentially be the device that could bring the struggling device maker back from the brink.
It was in November of last year.
As 2016 enters its second month, it looks more and more like BlackBerry’s future as a device maker that may well have passed the point of no return. Some say there is still a chance BlackBerry phones will hold up – as purely Android devices like the Priv – but most think it might be time for BlackBerry to focus on management software products. and enterprise mobile security that it can cost-effectively bring to the table.
Yet another round of staff cuts
As last week drew to a close, BlackBerry announced that around 200 other jobs had been cut. BlackBerry has neither confirmed nor denied that these positions all belong to the company’s handset manufacturing division. The company’s official statement on the closures:
“As BlackBerry continues to execute on its turnaround plan, we remain focused on improving the efficiency of our global workforce. It means finding new ways to enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities, while aiming for sustainable profitability in all parts of our business. As a result, approximately 200 employees were affected in Canada and Florida. It also means BlackBerry is actively recruiting in areas of our business that will drive growth. For those employees who have recently left the company, we know they have worked hard on behalf of our company and we are grateful for their commitment and contributions.
The statement, however, followed reports in The Globe and Mail that had cut 75 jobs at its Sunrise, Florida manufacturing plant and MobileSyrup reports that BlackBerry is cutting 35% of the jobs at its Waterloo manufacturing facility.
And although these are the first cuts of this year, the slash and burn in BlackBerry’s workforce has been going on for some time. BlackBerry announced staff cuts in May, July and September of last year, most of which came from the company’s smartphone business. In fact, this latest round of layoffs in September resulted in a statement by CEO Chen that the complete removal of the device business is on the table going forward.
“Next year we have to make our appliance business profitable, otherwise I have to rethink what I’m doing there,” Chen said. “My job is to ensure that the value of the company is protected and increases. … Even though I’m not in the cell phone business, Android security allows us to provide solutions through software.
And, as results released in December show, the devices are far from cost-effective, and significant staff cuts appear to be continuing.
The exact number of employees on BlackBerry lists these days is a bit of a question mark; the latest official statement said that in February 2015, the company had 6,225 full-time employees. Today’s estimates put that number at around 5,500. At its peak in 2007, BlackBerry employed 17,000 people.
Is Android the future?
The Priv has had some success, although, as is often the case with mobile technology, it is difficult to put a precise number on this, as BlackBerry has not broken down specific data on it. Inductive reasoning, however, would indicate that BlackBerry has at least a few people on the Priv.
The Priv, at $ 700, is BlackBerry’s most expensive phone by far.
“The first 30 days of sales have been quite positive”, Chen said. “I don’t want to exaggerate things. It’s an expensive phone.
And while Chen avoids the hype, at least part of the BlackBerry team is quite optimistic about the alternative operating system’s future prospects.
“The future is really Android. We opted for Android primarily for its ecosystem of applications. In addition, all of the business solutions we offer have been cross-platform for a long time. So it’s a natural progression to Android, ”said Damien Tay, the company’s director of product management for Asia-Pacific. The economic times of India.
Not everyone is convinced of this, however, noting that unless Priv takes off in a spectacular fashion, it may not be enough to right the BlackBerry ship, especially if the company’s CEO deadline to do so is by the end of 2016.
So what’s the next step? Is it really the end of the BlackBerry this time?
Doubtful, because it still has this huge pool of intellectual property, patents and the quiet but not invaluable progress it has made over the past 18 months or so to hedge its bets and further develop its capabilities as a security provider. corporate and EMM. But is this the end of BlackBerry as a phone maker?
Of the devices that are entirely his, it seems almost certain that this is the case. For BlackBerry-enhanced Android devices, time is running out and it remains to be seen whether the remaining 11.5 months this year is enough for the phone to become a competitor.