The long goodbye of Research in Motion/BlackBerry may finally be entering its final stages. But, like a dying star that implodes over eons, the fading of BlackBerry could still go on for a long time.
The story has been told many times: BlackBerry blazed a trail and for many years ruled the roost. It now has been brought low by Apple and Android.
The company’s last best chance of survival was the introduction of three products — the Q10 and Z10 devices and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 (BES 10). If the thought that the company’s fate depends on the introductions is correct, the end may be coming.
The first-quarter results were disappointing. BlackBerry shipped 6.8 million devices, about 700,000 below expectations. About 2.7 million BlackBerry 10 devices shipped, about 900,000 short of projections.
BlackBerry has a safety valve against its often predicted demise: It is so deeply penetrated in the enterprise that its momentum continues on its own. At some point, however, the center no long will hold. The question now is whether the poor first quarter is that moment.
Motley Fool does a nice job of tracing BlackBerry’s decline. The three main downward drivers, the story said, are lack of apps, a failure to connect with consumers, and losses in the enterprise, long its strong suit. The story has nice graphics to illustrate the fall from grace. Engadget chimes in with the news that BlackBerry 10 isn’t coming to the PlayBook. That isn’t surprising and doesn’t speak to a great future for the tablet, which was a big deal when it was introduced. The orphaning of the PlayBook is consistent with the generally negative momentum.
Whenever BlackBerry encounters trouble, analysts start discussing what the company’s death throes will look like. One topic is always what each part is worth individually, and this go-round is no different. CNNMoney’s Julianne Pepitone suggests that Microsoft, Apple or Samsung could be interested:
BlackBerry owns a trove of lucrative patents, which is a huge advantage in the competitive — and litigious — smartphone field. The company’s several enterprise software solutions, including a newly announced security platform for iOS and Android, could be another strong source of revenue. And BlackBerry’s reputation endures as a company that specializes in that strong mobile security.
Rome wasn’t destroyed in a day, however, and it is unlikely that BlackBerry will simply fade away. It could be sold, as Pepitone suggests. It could survive as a truly niche product. It’s not as if it has been rejected by IT departments and other techies: To this day, virtually nobody directly criticizes the quality of BlackBerry’s products. Rather, it is market choices, encroachment of other companies on its market share, and the inevitable decline once other vendors got into the act.
BlackBerry had a bad quarter that may have sealed its fate. But it could be a goodbye that goes on for a long time.