The name Blackberry is so iconic people call their Blackberry smartphones, even a Blackberry Android smartphone like Priv, by the brand name only. Just ‘Blackberry’. Like the the way iPhone users refer to their smartphones as if it is not a smartphone like all Android smartphones. Because Blackberry is an iconic brand, any news especially the negative sort, gets blown out of proportion easily. The media frenzy over such news is always very intense.
But somehow the recent admittance by John Chen, Blackberry’s CEO, that the Blackberry smartphone is in dire straights did not raise more than a ripple in a tea cup going by the media attention to the news. Is it that Blackberry as a brand has fallen so low nobody cares much about news emanating from the company? Or perhaps people just grew tired of ‘Blackberry in trouble’ news?
However, for John Chen to actually say ‘Blackberry is in trouble’ after all the optimistic forecasts of the last few years is really something. For many analysts though, John Chen joined the party very late. Speaking exclusively with The National, Chen barred his mind on many issues concerning his company. Was the world excited about the launch of Blackberry Priv? Absolutely! So how come we haven’t being seeing the Priv around? There must be a reason people still hug their BB10s instead of dropping it to buy the first Blackberry Android smartphone. Chen admitted that the phone was too costly at $700. Apparently friends and acquaintances have told him privately they won’t mind buying the Priv at a lesser price because it was a very good phone. But not good enough to shell out $700. Perhaps, it was in a bit to address the high cost the company decided, a few days ago, to cut the price of Blackberry Priv by $50.
Would the price cut improve results? Just last week, Blackberry’s results for the last quarter showed only 600,000 smartphones were sold. Well short of the target the company needed to make a profit. And the alarming thing about the figures was that Priv, did not sell up to that number. And this was the Blackberry Android smartphone the company hoped would spark the revival of the the blackberry brand. It all came down to that price tag.
Lets hear it from the horses mouth, Mr Chen,
“The fact that we came out with a high end phone [as our first Android device] was probably not as wise as it should have been.
A lot of enterprise customers have said to us, ‘I want to buy your phone but $700 is a little too steep for me. I’m more interested in a $400 device’.”
And the rumours were right after all. Two new Blackberry Android smartphones would be released this year. Chen admitted that in the interview. According to him, and just like the rumours said, the two Blackberry Android smartphones would both be budget mid-range phones. One of the phones would have a physical keyboard while the other one would be a touchscreen-only smartphone. The important bit of info is the fact that the company would focus more on the budget phones to cost around $400 or less. That is a clear indication that we might never see a high-end Blackberry Android smartphone like the Priv again. But that’s not all though, it seems likely the new phones would either make or break Blackberry in the hardware business. This is not mere speculation. Hear Mr Chen talking about the future of Blackberry handsets,
“Since I started at the company, I’ve been saying I’ll make the handset business profitable.
If I can’t make it profitable because the market won’t let me, then I’ll get out of the handset business.
I love our handset business, but we need to make money.”
The message is clear then. Blackberry fans the world over should set aside their old handsets and buy a Blackberry Android smartphone. Or the the hardware division of the firm would go bust.
photo credits: bbci.co.uk; thenational,ae