As we all know, Blackberry has been falling apart for quite some time. They’ve had restructurings as well as fundamental changes in the company’s own structure and corporate culture. They’ve added a new CEO, and changed the company’s name among many other things. However, none of these things have really given the company the ability to stem the tide of Android and iOS devices entering the enterprise and completely annihilating Blackberry’s bread and butter. Without the enterprise customers willing to pay a serious premium per user and for servers, Blackberry is effectively without any profitability.
Blackberry made attempts to release devices that were both consumer focused but at the same time enterprise capable and user friendly. Their first string of failures really began with their first tablet, the Blackberry Playbook. This tablet suffered from the biggest problem that most newcomers face when competing against Android and iOS, the sheer lack of developer support and applications. It also had some significant bugs that it didn’t manage to work out until it was already deemed an irrelevant player on the market. Blackberry attempted to recover by selling these tablets for less and updating the OS to make it more user friendly, but the truth is that they never really changed the design principals or marketing.
Blackberry has severely underestimated the power of apps and marketing, both are incredibly powerful sales forces when utilized properly by OEMs. Their initial approach was that their users didn’t particularly care for touch screens, and then they attempted a touch screen like the Blackberry Storm which was a horrible device in terms of functionality due to the bizarre clicky touchscreen. They eventually adopted touchscreens, after basically being the last ones to the party. After that, Blackberry really failed to improve the performance of their devices and kept putting sub-par internal hardware. Then, they came out with the Z10 and Q10 with their latest operating system and hardware, and nobody will argue that they’re actually bad devices.
However, Blackberry’s mistake is that the Z10 is something that they should have come out with about 2 years ago. The Z10 would have been a competitive device in 2011, perhaps, even 2012. But for 2013, the Z10 simply isn’t a competitive enough device when you take into consideration the features and flexibility of their competition. The new crop of devices have proven that they are not enough to life Blackberry out of over a year of straight operating losses. The company simply can’t find a way to profit off of their own products, and this is primarily because they’ve simply let the company erode to the point where it is no longer competitive. That’s the sad truth. This is a perfect example of corporate neglect and arrogance that they could milk their core audience for ever.
Now, Blackberry is supposedly up for sale, again. But in a much more official capacity. What does Blackberry have to offer to a potential buyer? Not much other than IP. They’ve castrated some of their most popular services like the ability to have an international data plan for people that use Blackberry’s Internet Services through their carriers. Nobody is really buying Blackberry’s devices and it seems like developers have pretty much given up on the platform as a whole, which is probably the most damning nail in the coffin.
What does this all mean? Well, investors seem happy that they’re going to sell themselves, so much so that the stock jumped 10%. The stock is around $10 which puts their market cap or valuation at about $5B for the whole company. However, when you look at the company itself, and their balance sheet from March of this year you can see that the company is in fact almost entirely debt free and is known to have quite a bit of valuable IP. While a price is likely going to be difficult to peg, I do not really see anyone buying Blackberry at their current market value. They would likely have to suffer some pretty significant losses in order for someone to be able to snap them up at a reasonable price. Buying Blackberry definitely does have some benefits, but one must be careful not to overpay for a clearly failing smartphone company.