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10/3/2013
05:23 PM
Ryan Harris
Ryan Harris
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BlackBerry's 11th Hour: How It Can Survive

To pull out of its death spiral BlackBerry needs a financial savior -- plus the willingness to promote the heck out of cool-but-neglected features like the keyboard and multitasking.

Multitasking With Active Frames

Apple loves to show off its innovations in cute and colorful commercials. BlackBerry has innovative features that few consumers know about. Active frames, which allow the device to keep as many as eight apps going at once, appear on the home screen. They provide much more information from the app than you'll get from a Windows live tile or Android widget.

… But Be Willing To Change

Let Your Hair Down A Bit -- But Don't Forget Who You Are

BlackBerry began as all-business; iPhone brought the party, but also heightened expense, fragile construction and value to thieves. BlackBerry shouldn't aspire to become the iPhone, but more options for customization and design -- such as a palette of case colors and ability to hide apps on the home screen -- could garner attention in a market influenced by looks, not just function.

Get Yourself Out There, BlackBerry

What can you do, BlackBerry phone? Apple advertisements are visual and aggressively promote features to appeal to the "got to have it" crowd; it's why folks camp out at the Apple store. Features that native BlackBerry users love, such as BlackBerry's keyboard and the red flashing light that signals a new email or text, need to be emphasized. Trendy advertisements are a start, but getting BlackBerry out there to software developers with a plan and some incentive to work together could be just as important.

Android and Apple are succeeding with a suite of applications geared toward productivity, not entertainment. This is BlackBerry's forte. A swift move to target third-party developers to create productivity-focused, up-and-coming apps like DropBox and Evernote would help raise BlackBerry's profile.

Let The Music Play

The iPhone is the Apple amalgamation of the iPod and mobile phone. Its DNA gives it heft in playing music. Market demographics have shifted, though, and often come with a soundtrack. Users want to listen to music, all the time. They want a music player to be intuitive and seamless, to play in the background as they play and work.

The BlackBerry music player is no longer a sore spot in comparison to BlackBerry's competitors. The music selection in the BlackBerry World app store is vast and BlackBerry 10 enhancements to the native music player include intuitive controls for shuffling, repeating, creating playlists on the fly and transferring songs to other devices. BlackBerry Z10 users can use the device's camera while playing music, something new to BlackBerry. The company should accentuate these features in advertising, and in any presentation to potential investors.

Side by side, Android, Apple and BlackBerry aren't all that different. But any more inaction will lead to extinction for BlackBerry. It must move quickly when funding is locked down, and take its fight to regain relevance directly to the public.

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melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2013 | 8:45:57 PM
re: BlackBerry's 11th Hour: How It Can Survive
I also wanted to point out that I disagree with the valuations given Blackberry for the various business they have. It's all way overvalued. Much of that technology has no value of its own once the phone business dies. It's all tied to the sale and use of Blackberry phones. This is something that few commentators seem to understand.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2013 | 8:40:18 PM
re: BlackBerry's 11th Hour: How It Can Survive
Yes, I absolutely believe that Fairfax is in desperation mode. You have had to follow this entire saga from day one to understand what is happening.

Watsa, who is called the Canadian Warren Buffet, because his company mimics what Buffet does, abet on a smaller scale, has invested heavily in RIM over the years, the one way his company differs from BH. But he's lost big in those investments, losing billions in the process. His investment has shrunk to about $450 million, with 10% of the shares.

Now, think of what's happened. He's made this offer, but refuses to put any more of Fairfax's money into it. He announces that the rest is with outside investors (no other large stakeholder in Blackberry is involved.) but he, so far, has refused to name any of those other investors. Odd, no?

Then we have the timing. This occurred not before the devastating last quarter results were given the preliminary announcement, but after, an announcement he knew about because he sits, or sat on their board at the time. Why then? The value of the company is much less now. And the timing is suspicious. Blackberry announced that they will cancel the normal analyst call because of the offer. Hmm! Now no one can ask Heins and the others any questions about the state of the company.

And even though Watsa says that he has the deal in place, and Blackberry supposedly has accepted that deal, he's got an alternate plan in place. One that will saddle the company with $4 billion in debt. But this will allow him to suck over a billion out of the deal for his company. Not making up the long term horrendous losses he's suffered, but making a great profit on his current investment.

Whatever happens, Fairfax won't lose money in this deal vs the current value of their investment as they aren't adding to it.

Very strange, isn't it?

And now, despite supposedly accepting this deal, Blackberry is contacting several companies to ask if they are interested in buying them. This is very odd. I've never seen anything like this mess before, and I've been doing this since I was 13, and that's 50 years.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/7/2013 | 1:26:41 PM
re: BlackBerry's 11th Hour: How It Can Survive
I was joking, but point taken. I also tend to agree that BlackBerry is toast on the consumer side. However, I disagree that there's no substance here. BB has some good technology -- $4.7 billion may be high, but are you arguing that Fairfax is throwing that money to the wind with no plan?
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2013 | 12:11:03 AM
re: BlackBerry's 11th Hour: How It Can Survive
Lorna, you're making a big mistake. Never assume that you know what another person is thinking, because you most certainly do not know what I am thinking.

Being realistic about something is not the same as hoping that it will happen. But at this time, it's clear that Blackberry has had it. If you can't see that, then you aren't looking hard enough. We get these pundits like Harris who don't know what they're talking about say things that aren't reality. Why? Because they have to write something, because that's how they get paid. And with all the gloom, rightly deserved over Blackberry's future, an article that goes the other way will get more clicks.

But if you hang out at the sites where someone will write drivel like this, then you're missing the big picture. You need to look at what has happened over the past few years in the industry, see where Blackberry was, where they are now, and how they got here. Then look at their leaders.

If you do, you won't think they can be saved either.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/4/2013 | 4:06:57 PM
re: BlackBerry's 11th Hour: How It Can Survive
I dislike seeing technologists almost gleefully wishing for a two-provider marketplace and burying MS and BB. Competition is a good thing, remember! Why would anyone want a world where your choice is Google/Samsung or Apple? HTC just posted a loss even though the One is a fantastic phone. Be careful whet you wish for, Mel ...
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/4/2013 | 3:21:45 PM
re: BlackBerry's 11th Hour: How It Can Survive
A year ago, I MIGHT have agreed with this. Two years ago I certainly would have agreed with this. But it's too late now.
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