Good afternoon everyone and thank you for coming to this very special BlackBerry Enterprise Event. We have many exciting announcements to make, but before we get to that I just wanted to say a few things.
I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.
A little over a year ago I took over as Interim CEO of BlackBerry, and things looked very bleak. Given the cash burn rate, it was only a matter of time – a few quarters at most – before the company would be finished (and put up on the auction block). Even I was somewhat daunted by the scale of the task, but now I’m certain that BlackBerry will survive. So you have my apologies for taking the job.
So how did we get to this sad state of affairs? Well, there were many missteps along the way that upset many organizations and individuals, so let me just run through them as quickly as possible. On a side note, I’ll be listing a few initiatives that began with my predecessor, Thorsten Heins, so I’ll be apologizing on his behalf.
I’m sorry BBM is now a cross platform application available on five platforms – BBOS, BlackBerry 10, Android, iOS and Windows Phone. That breathed new life into our secure messaging platform and signalled a sea of change at our company to embrace BYOD, cross platform MDM, etc. The whole notion of BlackBerry branching out into SaaS (Software as a Service) began there and has expanded greatly since then. More on that later.
Speaking of BBM, I’m sorry that we’re at 91 million active users – greater than the population of 235 out of 247 countries in the world – as opposed to WhatsApp’s reported 600 million users. But 91 million users is a laughingly small user base in comparison so it’s understandable that WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook for $19 Billion dollars while market analysts still can’t figure out a value for BBM.
And finally on the BBM front, I’m sorry that we’re planning on introducing a subscription based Premium BBM service for Enterprise. Core BBM (Voice, Chats, Groups, Glympse, Voice Notes, Channels) will remain free – and likely be expanded to Video for all platforms – but group video meetings, message retraction, timed messages, bbm protected and some other features will not.
I guess we forgot that we were BlackBerry and should give away everything for free – unlike Google Apps for business, Skype, Office 365, iCloud (Extra Storage), WhatsApp, etc – you get the idea. What on earth are we thinking?
And obviously, we’ve abandoned our consumers by making this move, unlike anyone else.
So we’re very sorry.
Partnering with Foxconn on some devices enabled us to reduce our inventory costs and source components at a lower price. This has allowed us to offer handsets at a reduced price while keeping our expenditures low. It gave us breathing space while we focused on the necessary downsizing and restructuring. It’s been a life saver, and I regret it deeply.
ACQUISITIONS, AMAZON AND OTHER PARTNERSHIPS
Speaking of partnerships, we didn’t stop with Foxconn. We’ve added many more partners since then, notably Amazon and Nanthealth. Amazon has unloaded the burden of spending money on our consumer app ecosystem (at a great savings to us) while still (mostly) satisfying that base. Of course that means we’ve ‘screwed’ native app developers because it logically follows that if people can get Spotify, MoonReader, Netflix, etc on Amazon then people who make native knockoffs – like Twittly, iGrann, Spo2ify, Blaq – will be left out in the cold. It’s obvious they’re suffering, and it’s because of us.
And let’s not even contemplate the unthinkable – that Netflix, Instagram, Google etc may eventually decide to make native BlackBerry versions of their own software. Thankfully they haven’t done so yet, clearly they care more about our developers than we do.
With Nanthealth we’re poised to grow vertically in the growing mobile health field. This has traditionally been Apple’s territory by default, so unfortunately they will have to deal with us rudely entering ‘their’ market. It’s embarrassing, I don’t know what to tell you.
And finally, moving to the subject of acquisitions we’ve shored up our enterprise front, notably by acquiring Secusmart and Movirtu, a one-two knockout combination that will allow for additional numbers on one device at a security level that is unparalleled and unbeatable.
*Sigh*. Obviously we have a problem. And we just can’t stop ourselves, we’re even looking for partners in emerging markets like China – home of the forked Android!
GOING TO CHINA
I’m sad to admit that I just recently returned from a trip to China where I met with senior management at Xiaomi, Lenovo and HTC. No, we’re not being acquired by Lenovo (sorry about that). Instead we’re looking to partner with these companies in an effort to shore up some glaring holes in Android security and prevent malware in the corporate world. Adding our expertise in this field will not only bring revenue to our coffers, it will give them an advantage over other Android OEMS, forked or otherwise.
Sorry to those that said we should make an Android phone instead of sticking with BlackBerry 10. Unfortunately, we’re going to take this route instead.
Oh, and sorry Blackphone.
Speaking of black phones, what is there to say about the unexpected demand for the Passport? We thought everyone had ‘moved on’ from BlackBerry, but just to be sure, we introduced the most unorthodox – and some say unwieldy – mobile device on the planet.
We ‘shrank’ the aspect ratio from 16:9 to 1:1 (an antiquated design surely), plunked an ‘antique’ keyboard on the bottom (while removing ALT, SYM and alternate mappings just to further alienate our core base!), made it heavier and thicker than any comparable device on the market and the pièce de résistance?
We wrapped it in an 80’s style steel band! LMAO!
Despite all our best efforts it sold out on Shop BlackBerry in six hours, on Amazon in ten hours, and we’ve had to scramble to fill backorders. I’m not sure what else we could have done to make it different from what conventional wisdom dictates.
Unfortunately the Passport was already being produced in the factory when Bendgate broke and I’m sad to say that it’s not only unbendable, it’s likely the most indestructible phone on the planet.
Folks, we screwed up big time on this one. For example, just think of all the carriers worldwide that have large contractual commitments with Apple and Samsung? Every BlackBerry device sold to a consumer is an iOS, Android or WP device left sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Oh, the humanity!
I’m also sure this is NOT what John Legere means when he says that T-Mobile is the Un-Carrier since his definition of freedom means Apple or Android. Sorry John.
On the handset front, I’m just going to go ahead and apologize in advance for the BlackBerry Classic and the return of the Belt. If it sells in decent numbers then there are many ‘experts’ that are going to have even more egg on their face, and we certainly don’t want that.
And no, we’re not exiting the handset business. Ever. Ooops!
One of my senior VPs, Mark Wilson, introduced the BB FactCheck online at our Inside BlackBerry Blog site. Without consulting me personally, he had the nerve to start an online social initiative that actually looked at some of our competitor’s claims to rebut them. In doing so, he has provided our loyal user base with talking points to combat false claims (and FUD) online. It’s having an unexpected impact, and I’m sorry to tell you that I’m noticing even the mainstream media are no longer using outdated file photos of discontinued legacy BlackBerry devices to accompany negative and misleading articles.
Even worse, some of the media (including tech bloggers) are no longer thinking of BlackBerry as an out of touch, outdated and doomed company. Increasingly, the media has deviated from anticipating the inevitable demise of BlackBerry to speaking of it positively in the future tense.
All in all, it has confused the hell out of everyone that is used to BlackBerry standing back and not responding to criticism. What a sad state of affairs, what have we become?
And if this trend continues, then I am facing the troubling prospect of unseating Steve Jobs as the only person who has successfully rescued a well known tech company from the brink of disaster!
Think of how this will affect Apple fans across the Globe!
Which brings us to today and the latest sad chapter in a series of unfortunate moves that has brought BlackBerry back into the fight: BES 12. As I stated earlier BBM cross platform was our toe in the water at transitioning the company to a Software as a Services company in addition to selling mobile handsets.
With BES 12 we’re in the final stage of becoming a full fledged platform agnostic provider of mobile – something that no other OS company has ever done in its history.
And for that, I can’t apologize enough.
It would have been so much better for our myriad competitors (and so many others) if we had just failed as expected this year. Then the company could have been split up into its constituent parts and a fire sale of epic proportions on Patents, QNX, BlackBerry Enterprise Server, BBM, etc could have occurred.
A large gaping hole in Enterprise would have opened up and competing platforms could have sailed in and filled the vacuum at little expense and with little effort. It’s such a shame they’ll have to work much harder and spend much more to try and succeed.
On the plus side, we’ll be around for the foreseeable future so I promise to address those failings at a future event. And for that, I’m not sorry.
(This is only satire and are not the words of John Chen)