The announcement that BlackBerry has entered in to a tentative agreement to sell the company to its largest investor, Fairfax Financial might appear on the surface to be good news. The deal reported to be valued at $4.7 billion – or $9 a share – will take the company private and likely bring about a clean house. But, while the deal would bring an end to the public bleed-out of the company it is unlikely to change any of the fundamental problems that face the beleaguered brand.
I’ve written regularly about the problems faced by BlackBerry as it planned what was billed as the start of its renaissance. I’ve criticized the company’s marketing and public relations approach, it’s focus [if you can call it that] on the wrong audience, it’s attempts to chase a consumer market that had moved on and the abandonment of its core customer – the enterprise user, and its bungled BlackBerry 10 playbook. New owners won’t fix much of this.
A renewed focus on Enterprise customers, a new marketing team and fresh ideas will definitely help. The delivery of the right message to the right audience at the right time via the right delivery mechanism will also make a difference. But, the company’s biggest asset – it’s name – is now also one of its biggest problems. BlackBerry’s new owners need a clean slate and must consider renaming the company as part of its turnaround plan. The BlackBerry brand is, sadly, tarnished beyond redemption.
Another problem that isn’t fixable is timing. BlackBerry’s long overdue BB10 launch has only served to make the company and its products more irrelevant in the eyes of many smartphone users. The company was behind the likes of Apple and Samsung when BB10 was announced; by the time it landed Sure, there are the BlackBerry die-hards, but how many of those remain will become clearer when the company reports its latest quarter at the end of the week. Of those that remain it’ll also be interesting to see how many switch to a competitive platform within the first six months of the company going private.
So, while many see the acquisition as a new dawn I still believe that it is merely an exercise in slowing the blood-loss and preparing for the inevitable – the transplant of many of the company’s most valuable assets in to the companies that need [or, in this case, can afford] them.
I wrote more than a year ago that I expected Apple to acquire BlackBerry for its patents and I still expect to see BES and BBM as a part of the Cupertino-based company’s ecosystem within 18 months.