John Paczkowski

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BlackBerry to World: Not Dead Yet!

RIM_Bring_Out_Your_DeadDespite every indication that it is not, BlackBerry says it is here to stay.

That’s the gist of an open letter from the foundering smartphone pioneer, scheduled to be published tomorrow. Placed in some 30 news outlets across nine countries, the message is an unusual public attempt to temper concerns about the calamitous turn BlackBerry’s business has taken this year, and to reassure the company’s “customers, partners and fans” of its longevity.

“You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry,” the letter reads. “You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day. We have one important message for you: You can continue to count on BlackBerry.”

What follows is a five-point argument mounted in support of that assertion built on BlackBerry’s cash and debt-free balance sheet, and what it touts as best-in-class products and services. (Side note: Interestingly, the letter is not signed by CEO Thorsten Heins, but by the “Blackberry Team.”) According to BlackBerry, it’s not the sad disaster depicted in recent media coverage of its tribulations. Rather, it’s a mobile-industry juggernaut fallen on “challenging times.” And if we all just stick with it, the company will rise again. The letter concludes with this don’t-leave-us-now-we-love-you appeal:

“You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade. We believe in BlackBerry — our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you.”

Coming as it does after a ghastly parade of ruinous announcements from BlackBerry — godawful second-quarter results, massive layoffs, fast-declining handset sales and manufacturing-partner departures — it’s hard to read the company’s open letter as anything other than a desperate, defensive squeal of pain. Or a last-ditch effort to highlight its strengths in the hope of attracting a new bidder.

BlackBerry recently agreed to go private in a $4.7 billion deal orchestrated by Fairfax Financial Holdings, its largest shareholder. BlackBerry founder and former co-CEO Mike Lazaridis is considering a bid for his old company, as is Cerberus Capital, though there are questions about whether any of these will actually come through.

Regardless, it’s generally unwise to remind the public that your company is in trouble — or perceived as being in trouble. But if the situation has become so dire that the media’s chronicling of it has longtime customers fleeing, then perhaps desperate measures really are called for.

BlackBerry’s letter in full, below:


BlackBerry_open_letter


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik