Monday, August 12, 2013

BlackBerry for sale? Watch this space

Some days you wake up feeling something's in the air. Today was one of them.

Smartphone maker BlackBerry announced it had formed a "special committee" to investigate strategic options (CrackBerry, CBC, TechCrunch). What it really means is the Z10 and Q10 phones it launched earlier this year - both based on the all-new BlackBerry 10 operating system - haven't sold as well as they had hoped. And since they were essentially bet-the-company products, BlackBerry has no choice but to radically restructure itself.

I spent a good chunk of the day explaining what it all meant to a lot of really smart Canadian journalists. I'll run down the list as I have time, so feel free to check this entry again as I fill in the results.

It's crazy and potentially unsettling news for the company, but I admit I love the process by which I get to cover it. Please don't tell anyone how much I enjoy this work.


CTV National News - Richard Madan's report. Included a clip in the show's lead-in (link to newscast, link to Richard's report, link to full page of related video.)

CTV News Channel - Live interview with Jacqueline Milczarek (story link here. Then click on the "3" in the video window - sorry, I couldn't find the direct link.)

CTV News Channel - Live interview with Scott Laurie from last night, just before all this blew up. Video here.

CTV Toronto - BlackBerry Exploring 'strategic alternatives' including possible sale of company
Colin D'Mello

CTV Kitchener - Report on 6 p.m. newscast by Max Wark. (Direct link to video hereReport is also on page 2 of available videos here.)

CTV London - Report on 6 p.m. newscast.

CP24 - Live interview with Stephen LeDrew

CBC Ontario Morning. Chatted live with Wei Chen. Podcast page is here. Podcast for the full hour is here. (And don't look now, but they've booked me back in for another interview Tuesday at 7:10 a.m.)

CBC Syndication Unit - spoke with a series of shows across the country through the afternoon. Hits included Montreal, Cape Breton, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Ottawa. Vancouver, Kelowna, Whitehorse, and Windsor. Coolest. Radio. Ever.

Toronto Star - BlackBerry finally puts up the For Sale sign
Byline: Trish Crawford and Vanessa Lu
Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst, believes BlackBerry has no other choice but to look at a sale, joint venture or alliance or mix of those.
“If BlackBerry could survive in its current form, we wouldn’t be seeing these actions right now,” Levy said. “Radical change is called for.” 
“Doing it now maximizes value and minimizes the potential for further erosion, while the company considers its options.” 
Levy argues BlackBerry could be much more than a handset maker, given its BB10 platform is state-of-the-art technology that has potential application in everything from medicine to industrial automation. 
“It’s not enough to have the best technology. You have to have a way to connect the technology to markets to drive business,” he said.The worst-case scenario would be a breakup of the company for parts, selling off different divisions, he said.But Levy doesn’t believe that’s what anyone wants to see especially CEO Heins, who took over from co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis in 2012. 
“Thorsten Heins did not take this job in order to preside over a funeral,” Levy said. 
The best-case scenario is some form of partnership or some form of joint venture that would bring in the resources that BlackBerry needs to expand, or figure out a way to leverage its existing technology, he added. 
More on the way tomorrow...

  • CBC Metro Morning with Matt Galloway. Podcast here.
  • CBC Ontario Morning with Wei Chen. Podcast is here. Podcast page is here.
  • CBC Kitchener (panel) with Craig Norris
  • AM980 London with Devon Peacock
  • 570News Kitchener with Gary Doyle
  • 1290 CJBK London with Mike Stubbs
  • 610 CKTB Niagara with Larry Fedoruk
  • CHQR News Talk 770 Calgary with Angela Kokott
  • The Calgary Herald - The inevitable approaches for BlackBerry - Deborah Yedlin
[Snip]In its heyday, it was all about messaging, but as soon as the iPhone came out, it became apps, apps, apps," said Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst based in London, Ont. And because change within the tech cycles is that much more accelerated, Levy says, it didn't take long for BlackBerry to fall behind. No longer was it enough to be the company that wrote the book on encryption software and produced a hand-held device offering secure messaging.
Just last week, International Data Corporation released data showing Black-Berry in fourth spot - with a 2.9 per cent market share - and continuing to bleed subscribers."That's another reinforcement for BlackBerry to get out of the handset business," said Levy.
Levy points out it's those who were the early adopters of the BlackBerry, which happens to be the boomers on the cusp of retirement, is the demographic that cares about the keyboard.The next generation, he says, doesn't care.
Does all this mean the demise of yet another Canadian company, which once dominated a market but became too arrogant to realize there is no such thing as stasis in the business world - especially in technology? Levy doesn't believe BlackBerry will be sold off in pieces."(CEO) Thorsten Heins didn't take the job to preside over the company's funeral. He doesn't want to be remembered as the guy who killed the company," he said.The good news, perhaps, is that as an outsider, Heins is not inextricably tied to a legacy business - which means he can to look for ways that maximize value that aren't necessarily hinged to the handset world."It can't be about the hardware," says Levy.
In that world right now, there is one name that might make sense - Dell.It might be in the throes of its own challenges regarding a going private transaction - but adding BlackBerry to its corporate infrastructure makes some sense. Levy points out that Dell needs the credibility in the enterprise space - and more than 72 million subscribers - that would come with a BlackBerry deal.[Snip]
[Snip]Cons: Neither company is in a state to be swinging for the fences. And although both companies have a strong presence in enterprise, they have struggled to attract consumers to their brands. “An interesting play would give Dell the mobile capability it has tried repeatedly to create, and failed,” independent technology analyst Carmi Levy said. “But both companies are in need of help, so it’s not a case of a negative times a negative equals a positive.”[Snip]
This isn't just work for me. It all brings back memories of sitting around the kitchen table wondering about the wonder of radio and all media. It was magical then, and it remains even more so today now that I get to be a part of the big show. Coolness.

1 comment:

Muse & Views Bookclub said...

It is so neat to listen and watch someone you "sort of know" comment so confidently.