BlackBerry Asks for Time, Faith

BlackBerry Asks for Time, Faith

It's like getting a message during a séance

In an open letter to customers, partners, and fans, BlackBerry this week is trying to overcome the steady stream of bad news about a company that has already accepted a buyout offer and has no real future. The letter, which is available on its website and in full-page ads in 30 newspapers around the world, touts the firm's lack of debt, "substantial" cash hoard, and efficient organization.

What it doesn't explain is why a smartphone platform in total freefall has any realistic expectation of success going forward.

"You've no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry," the letter begins. "You're probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day. We have one important message for you: You can continue to count on BlackBerry."

Related: "BlackBerry Working on Multi-Platform, Cloud-Based BYOD Solution for Enterprises"

Credited to the "BlackBerry team," the letter focuses first on the firm's finances, which it says are solid while ignoring the fact that BlackBerry is also now burning through $500 million a quarter in the midst of cutting 40 percent of its employees.

"BlackBerry [is] the most trusted tool for the world's business professional," the letter notes, though it's not clear if that's still true: iPhones and Android handsets are far more common in business today than BlackBerry devices, and the BlackBerry devices one does see in use are the older, keyboard-based units, not the BlackBerry 10 handsets the firm disastrously launched this year.

BlackBerry seemingly acknowledges that change as well.

"We understand that as iOS and Android devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely," the letter notes. "This is not a trivial task ... We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM launch for Android and iPhone." The letter doesn't, however, note that the BBM launch for Android and iPhone was halted in September because a pirated, older version of the software was causing trouble. That issue has yet to be rectified.

Frankly, BlackBerry's former strengths—primarily the security of its devices and proprietary network, but also its enterprise management tools and messaging platform—are no longer important differentiators. In a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) world, firms that would typically hand out BlackBerry units to employees are indeed letting those employees bring their own devices to work. And those devices are Android handsets and iPhones, not BlackBerry devices.

This year, BlackBerry even fell behind Windows Phone and became a distant number four in a market that thus far has supported only two main players. With shipments nose-diving in the second quarter of 2013, BlackBerry has less than 3 percent market share, compared with 79.3 percent for Android, 13.2 percent for iPhone, and 3.7 percent for Windows Phone.

"We believe in BlackBerry," the letter concludes, "our people, our technology, and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business. You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own: You can continue to count on us."

Related: "BlackBerry Announces $1 Billion Write-Down, Cuts 4,500 Jobs"

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