I cannot keep count of the amount of times in the past few weeks I have had the same conversation with friends, colleagues and even my partner.
Person I am familiar with: What is the phone you have now?
Me: A BlackBerry Z10.
PIAFW: [laughter] Really? A BlackBerry? Are you the last person with one of those? [more laughter]
Me: But, but, the new operating system is great, the design is beautiful, the…
PIAFW: [louder laughter]
Me: [insert expletive]
Admittedly, my boyfriend is an iPhone user, so I discount his opinion instantly [sorry love] but fellow beings both of the tech and non-tech persuasion seem to find my admiration for the product baffling.
I was the dream customer for BlackBerry; the one they envisioned when designing the new devices and operating system it launched in January. A previously dedicated Android customer who had dabbled with the idea of a new OS after getting annoyed with fragmentation and malicious apps. One who had considered Microsoft and Nokia’s partnership but had not been won over. One who was ready to fall in love with her mobile all over again.
It took about a week after getting the Z10 to be head over heels and although I knew BlackBerry was in hot water, I, like them, thought if they got enough of the handsets into the mitts of smartphone lovers, the world would see the device we saw.
But it never came to be. Many months have passed and still no one has leapt to its defence. Instead talk is now around BlackBerry selling up shop – something everyone in the industry foretold – and a $1bn loss, mostly due to the writedown caused by unsold Z10s.
Rumours are shooting around like Angry Birds of who the buyer will be, despite the firm already accepting an offer from its largest shareholder, Fairfax Holdings. But even when the $4.7bn was put on the table, it was widely considered to be posturing, with a hope to stir up more interest from other suitors rather than an instant yes from BlackBerry.
A Reuters article has now been getting a lot of attention, citing ‘several sources close to the matter’ throwing out names of prospective new owners; OS rivals like Microsoft – which just shelled out $7.2bn on Nokia – and Google, handset rivals like Samsung and LG, even technology giants Intel and Cisco have been mentioned.
You could come up with an argument for why each would want to buy BlackBerry and equally why each would want to run away. There is no doubt its existing customer base is attractive to those wanting to break into either North America or the world of enterprise. There is also little question its BES software is still widely regarded as the safest bet for corporate roll-outs and there are some tasty looking patents owned by the firm.
But there are plenty of question marks over the future value of the company, whether it will continue to fall in the next 18 months or if any buyer would have to pump in so much investment, it might not be worth the initial layout.
I will leave the economists to answer that question but it all smells to me like a bit more posturing from those sources who, let’s face it, are likely to be BlackBerry employees or executives bigging up the firm again like with the Fairfax offer and hoping to make its for sale sign look more like an Apple advert than a Steve Ballmer video.
But I don’t blame them. The best bet is to sell up and sell fast before the offers dry up. Because the fact is, despite what I think of the handsets and the software, customers don’t want to buy BlackBerry, and in bars, businesses and even bedrooms across the globe, the few remaining fans are being laughed at by friends, colleagues and partners for defending the brand. Trust me, I know…