John Chen, the CEO brought in to arrest Blackberry slide into oblivion believes that Blackberry has turned the corner and can be saved. In an article by Nic Fildes in THE TIMES Business (6 August) Chen was quoted as telling staff that the worse was over although there was “no room for error” as the former giant tries to regain some sort of equilibrium.
By the numbers, the fall of Blackberry has been nothing short of spectacular: From a market share in 2011 of 10.3% to one of 0.8% today; from a staff compliment of 17 500 in 2011 to that of 7 000 today; from a market cap of $78.3bn in May 2008 to that of $4.75bn as of August 2014 *. Falling off the cliff doesn’t get much more dramatic than that picture!
Will Blackberry achieve a turn-around and live to survive another day and provide Chen with another ‘turn-around’ notch on his belt? I doubt it.
The problem is that Blackberry is competing in an industry that has experienced significant churn over the last 30 years and one where getting back in the saddle once knocked off, proves very difficult indeed. In 1983 Motorola’s DynaTac was seemingly untouchable. By 1995 Nokia had captured 40% of the market only to be knocked off their perch by RIM (Blackberry) in 2002. 2007 saw Apple crash the party with the iPhone and in 2013 Samsung outmuscles the iPhone 2:1. These are choppy waters with unforgiving currents in which Blackberry is trying to regain something of its stroke. Their problem is that that have formidable competitors and that is not accounting for the sure to come ‘new entrants’ into the market. When you have taken on board the water Blackberry has, making up the gap is almost impossible with others swimming so strongly.
Chen has been able to bring on board some significant partners including Amazon who have committed to inject 200 000 apps on to the Blackberry phones. There has been robust internal restructuring and much external beating of the chest and loud war cries. Time will of course tell what, if anything, this will all amount too but these are the things that are providing some glimmer of hope.
That said, I will continue to ask for a show of hands of those in the audience who own a Blackberry before proceeding to tell them to enjoy it, as it most likely the last they will own!
RIM…RIP? (maybe that is why RIM ditched its name in favour of ‘Blackberry?)
*The figures quoted are taken from Fildes article as mentioned.