BlackBerry CEO Chen Puts Pride Before Profits by Dumping T-Mobile

NEWS ANALYSIS: BlackBerry has only managed to shoot itself in the foot with its decision to break off its smartphone sales arrangement with T-Mobile. But hopefully these companies won't remain estranged for long.

The public break-up by BlackBerry against T-Mobile has left onlookers bewildered, because of its apparent suddenness and because it seems destined to hurt BlackBerry far more than anything that might happen to T-Mobile.

If things go as they are now, BlackBerry is dumping T-Mobile as a carrier by the end of April. Although this looks like a disastrously stupid move by BlackBerry, there may be hope. Sources close to discussions between BlackBerry and T-Mobile indicate that once BlackBerry is over its hissy fit, the companies will patch things up. But for now it's just a mess.

Shortly before BlackBerry CEO John Chen announced to the world that he was terminating the company's agreement with T-Mobile to sell BlackBerry devices, I was having doubts of my own. My BlackBerry Z10 had just received an update to BBOS 10, which was acting strangely. By the time I was finishing up at a conference near San Francisco, the phone had lost the ability to make or receive calls, the calendar was history and the contacts would appear with random contact info.

By this time I was visiting friends in the Bay area, and the Z10 had become useless. Worse, BlackBerry's once-excellent tech support apparently had abandoned me. Unfortunately, I was headed for Interop the next week, and I needed a phone of some kind. So I headed into a mall in Santa Rosa, Calif., and visited the T-Mobile store. With the help of a very competent staff, I picked up an iPhone 5S and headed on my way. Why not buy another BlackBerry Z10? T-Mobile didn't carry them in its stores, leaving me with little recourse.

In this way my personal phone woes became part of a larger story. Back in February, T-Mobile's marketing mavens sent out an ill-considered email to BlackBerry users offering them a chance to upgrade to an iPhone. The offer was poorly conceived and even more poorly worded, resulting in a period of outrage from T-Mobile's BlackBerry customers. Chen apparently has stewed for a couple of months about BlackBerry's treatment by T-Mobile.

This all came to a head on April 2, when Chen, in a fit of what appears to be wounded pride, announced that T-Mobile was getting the boot. Chen then offered T-Mobile BlackBerry users a hundred bucks to switch to AT&T. T-Mobile responded by offering its BlackBerry customers the same amount to upgrade to a new BlackBerry or another phone to stay with T-Mobile and promised its BlackBerry customers that they would not lose support.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...