Open Letter to BlackBerry: Why we Cannot Count on You

Subject: Open Letter to BlackBerry: Why we Cannot Count on You
From: David Gilbert
Date: 4 Mar 2015

Dear BlackBerry,

I noticed yesterday that you took the time to pen an open letter to the "tens of millions" of people you say count on BlackBerry products every single day. That was very nice of you, especially at a time when you clearly have a lot more on your mind, what with takeovers, rival bids and the possible break up of a once-iconic brand.

You spoke of "challenging times" ahead and making the "difficult changes" necessary, but the overall mood of your letter was one of hope and positivity - "You can continue to count on us."

I thought I would reciprocate and respond in kind with my own thoughts on why BlackBerry customers, and any potential customers, cannot count on you anymore, and why the future is not bright, but utterly bleak.

You can continue to count on us

Really? How can any BlackBerry user believe that in two, four, six, 12 months' time the company will even be here? Why would anyone buy a new BlackBerry Z30 for £500 when they can't be sure its software will be supported in one year's time?

Developers are not going to support a platform that is clearly sinking beneath the waves, and therefore the BlackBerry World app store is soon going to reflect supermarket shelves following a nuclear fallout.

You say you have "substantial cash on hand" and no debt, but how does this matter if your customers abandon you? Are you going to buy them back?

You also mention your race to cut costs by 50% which has seen thousands of people lose their jobs around the globe, and while cost-cutting in a business is always welcome, it seems like you are closing the door after the horse has bolted - and run off into the far distance to buy an iPhone.

Best in class productivity tool

You claim proudly that you have the "best range of devices" while continuing to beat the "best-typing-experience-on-a-smartphone" drum. When all people wanted to do on their smartphones was send and receive email, send text messages and make phone calls, then your claims could have rang true, but in today's world where apps are king, BlackBerry is a distant third (likely soon to be fourth) to Apple and Android (and Windows Phone).

Yes BlackBerry Hub is a great innovation, and yes both the physical keyboard of the Q10 (though not the Q5) and on-screen keyboards of the Z10 and Z30 are class-leading, but these are bit parts of a bigger eco-system which is need for a successful smartphone platform - and which BlackBerry clearly doesn't have.

Best in class security

At one stage, BlackBerrys were the only communication device approved by governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. This was for a very good reason, BlackBerry's security was (and remains) the best in the business.

While the security credentials remain impecable, it is no longer the case that BlackBerrys are the only devices governments and businesses allow their employees to use for work.

Just this week GCHQ announced new platform security guidance details to help protect official communications and along with BlackBerry 10, it approved eight other platforms including iOS and Android.

Previously people in government were given no choice as to which device they used for work, but with the proliferation of BYOD in the workplace, they now have a choice, and given the choice between an iPhone 5s or HTC One and a BlackBerry device, which one do you think they will chose?

Best in class mobile social network

Come on. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) had its day. It was a precursor to the likes of WhatsApp, iMessage and Viber but much like the company as a whole, BBM is done.

You say that six million people have already pre-registered to sign up for BBM once you finally get it to work on iOS and Android? So what?

WhatsApp currently has over 300 million active users on all major platforms (including BlackBerry) who are sharing 325 million photos every single day. How are you going to compete with that?

I applaud your ambition: "The tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BalckBerry smartphone and make it the world's largest mobile social network." But if you really believe this is possible, then the company is in bigger trouble than I thought.

BBM has around 75 million users at the moment, add a few million to that figure when it launches on Android and iOS and you are still nowhere near the likes of Facebook, which at last count had 819 million monthly active users - just on mobile.

Signing off

"We believe in BlackBerry - our people, our technology and our ability to adapt"

I don't believe in BlackBerry. You have fired a huge majority of your "people"; your "technology" has been superseded by that of Apple, Google, Samsung and even Microsoft; and it has been specifically your inability to adapt which has seen your market share plummet from 20% in 2009 to less than 3% today.

Yours sincerely,

David Gilbert