The drama surrounding BlackBerry never seems to go away. And that drama is why the Canadian smartphone manufacturer needs to take itself private forthwith.
I’ve been pitching a go-private as an answer to BlackBerry’s problems for several years. And with the latest news of a possible sale or go-private move, it’s more vital than ever. It’s the only way to get out from under unrealistic and uninformed market and investor expectations that want BlackBerry to be Apple, something that it can’t be, and shouldn’t try to be either.
BlackBerry once dominated the smartphone segment. It largely helped create the market, in a time when business-issued devices dominated. It missed the shift to a consumer-led market, and now Apple and Android have come to dominate. It’s a natural cycle; companies rise and fall. BlackBerry will not be the dominant player it once was.
Investor pressure in recent years has pushed BlackBerry to seek to emulate Apple by moving out of its comfort zone with consumer-focused offerings. They’ve had some small success and a number of setbacks. Of course, every vendor has setbacks – remember Apple’s iPhone that didn’t make phone calls, and all the products Google has killed? Still, BlackBerry has undeniably failed to meet expectations.
The problem is, those expectations are unrealistic, and push BlackBerry in a direction it shouldn’t go. At this point, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins could excrete gold and it would still be judged a disappointment by observers that think BlackBerry should be Apple. Anytime they release a new product, I read reviews saying it’s fantastic product in every way, but it won’t save the company. Nothing they could do would ever satisfy the growing legion of critics.
BlackBerry needs to reset expectations. While it won’t ever be the smartphone giant it once was, it has good products and good technology that can serve some key market niches. It needs to stick to what it’s good at: a highly secure and stable smartphone OS with easy management tools ideal for a business environment. It has also continued to find success in emerging markets with cheaper, more lightweight devices, a space Apple hasn’t seriously addressed other than with older generation models.
There is still a good, profitable business available for BlackBerry if it lowers expectations, focuses on what it’s good at, and stops trying to be what it’s not, or can’t be. But that’s impossible to do when you’re trying to meet investor demands for constant growth and pundit expectations for the second coming.
The only way to get out from under that is to go private. Only then, can we let BlackBerry be BlackBerry.