Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Blackberry is Giving Itself a Black Eye

Photo Credit: Blackberry

When 2013 began, Blackberry (entering the year with the long-standing Research in Motion business name) prepped what was supposed to be an ambitious and important corporate revival. Blackberry's CEO Thorsten Heins proudly held the full touchscreen Z10 and the QWERTY keyboard/touchscreen hybrid Q10 smartphones as if they were the Ten Commandments that would lead a connected humanity. Their Blackberry 10 operating system was highly developed to the point it delayed its release date to a point some were concerned if the devices would ever arrive. While the devices featured nifty technology, the smartphones have not left the big splash in the water it hoped. Having not learned from the Playbook tablet, Blackberry is still fighting to realize it is not Apple (specifically when it comes to demanding money from consumers). While their technology is formidable, Blackberry has been fighting to reclaim a its position as a major smartphone player when selling near $700 devices such as the Z10 or Q10.

In addition to the Blackberry Z10 and Q10, a third smartphone using the new operating system and technology was created. Slightly less capable than the Q10, the Blackberry Q5 carried the perk of a lower price tag. Unfortunately, Blackberry made choice to sell the Q5 only in emerging markets not realizing a market for a lower-cost smartphone option in North America. Even Apple has been rumoured to be readying a more price competitive iPhone. In late July, Blackberry finally conceded in what was their initial intentions to sell its Q5 handheld device. A less expensive Blackberry 10 family device priced roughly comparable with the latest Android devices from Samsung. In time for the Back-to-School buying phase, the QWERTY-keyboard equipped Blackberry Q5 device could potentially show up on the wish list of high school and college students. With its forecasted release this week, there is just one question; where has been the promotion for the Blackberry Q5?

Mention of the Blackberry Q5 is only trickling out from Canadian wireless carriers. Of as Monday, the Telus website is the only major wireless phone provider to advertise the Q5 being available. Through Telus, the Blackberry Q5 costs $49 with a 24-month plan or $425 without a contract. Only this week has the Blackberry Canadian site updated to include the profile of the Q5. When Apple announces the technical details of their newest iPhone, that technology company insures that customers are well-informed on where and how to buy the device before it drops into kiosks. Is it possible that cell phone providers in Canada want to suppress knowledge of the less expensive phone to maintain better sales of the Q10? Is just apathy wireless providers feel for Blackberry products?

Instead of hype surrounding the roll-out of what could become the bread and butter tool to Blackberry's efforts to stay relevant, news has surrounded the structure of the Canadian-based technology provider. Shareholder swoop like vultures for the shares as it the company considers buying them back in order to go private. On Monday, news surrounded the fact Blackberry is exploring options such as a sale or partnership with another technology company. Some investors or analysts would also like to see the company separate its more promising units away from less profitable efforts. This should be a time for the phone maker to promote their Q5 device's release in Canada. Once again, Blackberry is having difficulty trying to steer the message to the media. It's bad enough the company has abandoned plans for a next-generation Playbook tablet, the Blackberry 10 operating system could be an compelling piece of software few will see. It is disappointing to see the company behind the BBM technology is lacking the ability to effectively communicate what could be a move that will place more Blackberry 10 operating systems in the hands of customers.

Ultimately, what Blackberry needs is to place their devices into as many hands as possible. By stoking a consumer marketplace, app developers and investors will be more eager to place their support behind the company's work. The Blackberry Q5's release in Canada should be observed as the key to igniting a spark in an engine that is losing power. We simply need to wait and see if there is a fire left in Blackberry.

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