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Is BlackBerry finished?

01 Jul 13

Selling as many new models in three months as Apple does iPhones in a week, many believe time is running out for the embattled BlackBerry.

After releasing its first full-quarter sales of the BlackBerry 10 range, it would appear the company has failed to reinvent itself within the smartphone market and could even be finished.

Casting back over a year ago, CEO Thorsten Heins refused to admit BlackBerry was "finished", instead buying time to get things right within the company.

Twelve months on and with the BlackBerry 10s available to the public, the redesigned manufacturer is staring the abyss full in the face.

Reporting shipments of just 6.8 million phones, with only 2.7 million new models, Apple sells more iPhones in a week than BlackBerry has in three months.

Cited as the end of the new beginning before the financials were revealed, most industry figures now believe it is in fact the beginning of the end.

"BlackBerry is solidly in follower mode, at least as regards devices," says Dr Ronald Klingebiel, a BlackBerry researcher and professor at Warwick Business School for many years, told Techday.

"The Q10 and Z10 are devoid of revolutionary features that might put BlackBerry back into the driver seat.

"The device industry is increasingly consolidating, with a few big manufacturers sharing all the spoils."

On the brink?

Fighting back in typical Heins style however, the CEO claimed "we're only five months in", insisting "there's more to come, more exciting products to come."

Yet Klingebiel disagrees, believing the main reason why BlackBerry has not yet crashed and burned as badly as some other former competitors is its enterprise server.

"Business clients have hesitated to abandon the secure working environment and efficient integration that BES offers, even if the BlackBerry handset experience was lagging," he said.

"Whatever little time there is left before the last corporate clients abandon the Blackberry package, the company should use this time to refocus on its core strengths in BES, potentially at the expense of abandoning their device portfolio.

"Some recent activities show that BlackBerry could be thinking in this direction."

Most notably is the release of the Secure Work Space app that allows iOS and Android users to benefit from RIM’s BES 10.1. BlackBerry Balance should be extended to non-BlackBerry devices too.

It is in this new area of mobile device management, including mobile app management and secure connectivity, that BlackBerry's greatest prospects lie according to Klingebiel, where core competence meets reduced competition in a new and growing field.

"Providing device-agnostic services to corporate clients thus may hold the greatest potential," he said.

"But will BlackBerry's management be courageous enough to abandon a former mainstay - devices?

"Given its seemingly inevitable decline, drastic bets on the strategic direction of the company seem in order."

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