BlackBerry to Customers: You Can Count on Us
Embattled mobile device maker BlackBerry is looking to reassure customers and partners of the company’s continued viability even though its future remains uncertain.
Officials with BlackBerry, which in September reached a deal to go private and has since seen reports about various tech vendors that may be interested in buying parts or all for the company, issued an open letter Oct. 14 on social media outlets—and it will run in 30 newspapers in nine countries Oct. 15—assuring customers that the handset maker will continue to exist.
“You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry,” the letter reads. “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.”
BlackBerry, at one time the world’s top handset provider, has been hammered in recent years by Apple’s iPhone and the growing number of smartphones from Samsung, Motorola and other vendors that run Google’s Android operating system. The company also failed in the tablet space with its PlayBook, and more recently has seen underwhelming sales of handsets powered by its new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
BlackBerry officials in September said that the company’s fiscal 2014 second-quarter losses hit $965 million, and that they were instituting a restructuring plan that will include cutting 4,500 jobs.
Still, the company in its letter touted its strong financial standing and technology as key reasons for customers to continue to have confidence in BlackBerry. The company has “substantial” cash on hand and is debt-free, and is working to reduce expenses by 50 percent “in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization,” the letter read.
BlackBerry has four devices running BlackBerry 10, a deep heritage of best-in-class security capabilities—“have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private”—top management capabilities and a strong social media network, thanks to its BlackBerry Messenger launch for the iPhone and Android. The company already has 6 million iPhone and Android users pre-registered for the launch, according to officials.
“Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone,” the letter reads. “That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.”
Whether that will be enough to calm—and retain—customers, particularly given the speculation surrounding the company’s future remains to be seen. BlackBerry officials in August said they were open options for its future, including being bought. In September they signed a letter of intent to accept a $4.7 billion deal to be bought by a consortium led by Fairfax Financial Holdings, which would take the company private. Since that time, reports have emerged that company officials also are talking with Microsoft, Cisco Systems and SAP to sell part or all of the company.
Meanwhile, co-founders and current shareholders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin said in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that they are also considering making a bid for the company.
Jack Gold, principal analyst with J. Gold Associates, has said that while companies such as Cisco, Microsoft and SAP—as well as Oracle and IBM—could all benefit from buying pieces of BlackBerry, what would be best for BlackBerry would be the $4.7 billion deal with Fairfax.
“There is no shortage of possible ‘speculation’ on who would benefit from a dissecting of the BlackBerry assets,” Gold wrote in a note earlier this month. “But I’m still of the opinion that the Fairfax deal could be the best way forward for BlackBerry, as they could run them for a while and significantly increase the value of the overall company rather than the ‘Fire Sale’ going on right now.”