What's the next step, BlackBerry?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: November 5, 2013

If anything, at least I can say that BlackBerry has been exciting in the same time period that many people thought the Waterloo-based company was headed down the drain. We've watched them go back-and-forth so much that I wouldn't be surprised if anyone at BlackBerry really had absolutely no idea what is going to happen next. It's all all over the place, and even if things are starting to calm down a little bit right now, I can't help but wonder how long it's going to stay like that.

Just look at yesterday. Yesterday was a busy day for the company, with plenty of huge announcements to go around. And as you can imagine, we were all ears right from the start. We've been waiting for today's news since September 23, when BlackBerry agreed to be acquired by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited for $4.7 billion. That's a lot of money, and after that acquisition everyone expected BlackBerry to be cannibalized, separated and sold off in separate parts.

Everyone assumed that by now we'd start to see single parts of the company making news all on their own. Like a major focus on the enterprise, or something even more substantial with BBM rather than it just launching on iOS and Android. After the acquisition finalized, we all expected BlackBerry to be done and over with, at least as far as we've come to know it these days.

That's what we expected simply because that's what the doom and gloom projected.

As you've all heard by now, that didn't quite pan out. (Shocker!) Instead of BlackBerry being acquired by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, it turns out that the company went a different route: a $1 billion investment from the same aforementioned company as well as other unnamed investors. As a result, current BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins is now the ex-CEO of BlackBerry, and has been replaced by John Chen, who is the former CEO of enterprise software company Sybase.

So with a new CEO, what's the next step? Surely the $1 billion investment can go a long way to keeping BlackBerry afloat in the mobile industry for quite some time, and that's obviously what the main appeal of the investment is. BlackBerry wants to be in the race for the long haul, quite like Microsoft, and it was clear they weren't going to be able to do that on their own, with their own plans and whatever else. So, they needed some help. They got it, now it's time to move on.

Is the first step to axe the smartphone part of BlackBerry and focus on other endeavors? Apparently not, as Chen has confirmed via Reutersthat he has no plans to close down the phone business of BlackBerry. He believes he can rebuild the company, and that there is plenty to work with to make a successful company again. As a point, Chen suggests that it will take around six quarters to turn BlackBerry around.

So, yes, BlackBerry is in this race for the marathon and not the sprint. Chen knows it's going to take time, and it's pretty clear he's been straightforward about that right from the get-go. If that's the case, and the investors know it's going to take time and they're still willing to drop the cash to make it happen, then that's just a big, broad and bright sign for the company as a whole.

The question is, what can be done about it? Is BlackBerry crazy enough to introduce *another* brand new mobile operating system in this chaotic market? I doubt it. I think BlackBerry 10 has some footing to stand on, but that the devices have to match the high-end approach that BlackBerry has to its software. If the company is going to stay in the smartphone market, then they've got to build high-end devices along with their mid-range offerings. Don't pull any punches. Go the same route that HTC did and make a One-like device for BlackBerry. Make a high-end device that people talk about, and that people want to get their hands on.

Make a phone that people want from the hardware side, and you'll get them at least trying the software. That's a step in the right direction at least.

You'll obviously need apps, too, and that could very well be the big area they struggle in moving forward, just as they have in the past. I honestly don't know how they change that, seeing as the developer situation is kind of like the chicken and the egg. Apps need developers -- developers want users of the devices they're developing for. It's a back-and-forth that's hard to nail down, and it will be interesting to see how BlackBerry continues to address it over the next six quarters.

What would you like to see from BlackBerry, now that we know they aren't going away anytime soon? Do you think a high-end device, with all the right apps running BlackBerry 10 could put them back on the map? Or is the company just continuing to hold off the inevitable demise? Let me know what you think.

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