BlackBerry Doesn't Need to Stake Its Survival on Consumer Handsets

NEWS ANALYSIS: There's a lot more to BlackBerry than handsets in what is now a secure-messaging ecosystem based on a sophisticated real-time operating system.

The headlines would have you believe that BlackBerry is doomed and should be sold off as quickly as possible. The company, some observers say, can never return to the level of popularity and profitability it enjoyed in the early days of smartphones.

To some extent they're right, but that's not the whole story. That's because BlackBerry is about more than just handsets.

While the company announced on Aug. 12 that its board had formed a special committee to explore business opportunities that include selling the company, the fact is that the special committee can take a number of actions that don't involve selling off all or part of the company. In fact, selling the company isn't the most likely scenario.

It's important to take a look at all of BlackBerry before proclaiming that the company is on its deathbed. For one thing, this action was signaled some time ago prior to the introduction of the BlackBerry 10 when CEO Thorsten Heins said that the company would explore alternatives once it had gotten past the launch of its new OS and new handsets. Now that those items are accomplished, BlackBerry is already moving on to the next items on the checklist.

BlackBerry started working on those next when the company announced the BlackBerry Enterprise Service would support iOS and Android devices in its Secure Work Space service. Now BlackBerry is looking for ways to position the company so that it can take advantage of other opportunities. Problem is that BlackBerry is a public company, which means that it must focus on quarterly results, not on the long term. And what BlackBerry needs to do right now is plan and build for the long term.

The best way to do this, at least from the BlackBerry board's view, appears to be by taking the company private. That way the company can revise its approach and have enough breathing room to get it done. This will allows the board and the special committee to look for the best way to leverage BlackBerry's strengths.

And make no mistake—despite its tepid handset sales, BlackBerry does have significant strength. Perhaps more important, the company has significant resources. The company has enough cash on hand to operate for quite a while without generating a profit, although it probably hopes it won't have to.

BlackBerry's two most significant strengths are its secure network and QNX. The BlackBerry network is secure enough that from time to time, governments annoyed that their intelligence agencies can't crack BlackBerry's encryption, try to ban the devices.

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...