It has been a tough year for RIM. The BlackBerry PlayBook has not seen much success, its co-CEO structure buckled under intense pressure as the company appointed Thorsten Heins as the new CEO, and its next-generation operating system has been delayed and renamed. We've rounded up all the dark tidings in one spot.
Jan 3, 2014
BlackBerry is suing the maker of a snap-on keyboard accessory for smartphones. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company this week filed a complaint against Typo Products, which is backed and co-founded by Ryan Seacrest, claiming the company infringes on its patents covering keyboards.Read Article >
Dec 25, 2013
BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis has severely reduced his ownership stake in the company, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The information comes from a regulatory filing made public on Tuesday, in which Laziridis said he won't pursue a bid to buy the company, and as a result had cut his stake to roughly 4.99 percent of the ailing Canadian smartphone maker.Read Article >
Dec 16, 2013
A source close to the beleaguered BlackBerry has told The Wall Street Journal that two senior staff members will soon be leaving the smartphone manufacturer. Chris Wormald, head of BlackBerry's mergers and acquisitions, will reportedly be leaving by the end of December, while Rick Costanzo, executive vice president of global sales, will be out early next year.Read Article >
The news comes less than a month after three other executives were ousted from the company. BlackBerry was on the verge of breaking up in October after a buyout was mooted. To save the ailing corporation, new CEO John Chen — appointed to the position after Thorsten Heins quit the company in November — has adopted aggressive reconstruction policies. Chen reportedly told employees "things are going to get worse before they get better," at a town-hall meeting shortly after his appointment, also threatening that not all attendees would be there to see the company right itself. Chen will deliver BlackBerry's third quarter earnings later this week, at which point the world will see whether his yearly salary of up to $3 million has spurred him to turn around the company's spiraling fortunes.
Dec 5, 2013
With BlackBerry falling apart day by day, fans have never been more eager to reminisce on the pioneering smartphone maker's rise. While it's easy to forget the celebrity that the BlackBerry brand once held, Bloomberg Businessweek spoke with a number of old employees — most having worked there when it was still named RIM — who remember it well. "There wasn’t a meeting I couldn’t get," Vincent Washington, a BlackBerry business development manager with the company between 2001 and 2011, tells Businessweek. "All I had to say was, 'Hey, I’m bringing the BlackBerrys.'"Read Article >
The excitement quickly extended to customers. At launches in Jamaica and Trinidad, BlackBerry owners were reportedly invited to discos where they could get temporary tattoos that, when scanned, revealed their BBM PIN. "People would say, 'Scan me, scan me.' And as the evening went on, people would get more risqué and put the tattoos on different parts of their body," Lidia Feraco, a BlackBerry marketing manager with the company between 2005 and 2011, tells Businessweek. She says that instead of asking for each others' phone numbers, the classic pickup line morphed into, "'Hey, can I get your PIN?'"
Dec 2, 2013
BlackBerry CEO John Chen has been on the job for only a month, but his message is clear: BlackBerry isn't going anywhere. To bolster that sentiment further, Chen today issued a new open letter to his company's enterprise customers. "Our 'for sale' sign has been taken down and we are here to stay," Chen writes, using a recent investment deal with Fairfax Financial as evidence that the company has fresh wind behind its sails. After failing to make a sizable impact in the consumer smartphone market, Chen also reiterates that enterprise will be a leading focus for BlackBerry in the months and years to come.Read Article >
"We're going back to our heritage and roots — delivering enterprise-grade, end-to-end mobile solutions." But the company isn't getting out of the hardware business; Chen confirms that handsets will be among BlackBerry's four target areas. (Aside from enterprise, cross-platform messaging will be another focus point.) "In short, reports of our death are greatly exaggerated," writes Chen. The CEO then addresses business users head on, seeking to ensure BlackBerry's once-reliable customer base that the company is "in the game for the long term." It's not the first time BlackBerry has used such public-facing tactics to avert panic; in October it took out full-page ads in several publications to paint a similarly rosy picture. "You can continue to count on us," the company said then.
Nov 25, 2013Read Article >
The embattled BlackBerry is now tasked with finding a new direction for its floundering handset business, with a new CEO at the helm and $1 billion in funding from its investors. Interim CEO John S. Chen seems intent on righting the sinking ship, and is cleaning house in the process. Chen's vital role in saving Sybase was a major factor in the BlackBerry board choosing him in the reorganization. He now expresses his willingness to change course in the official release, stating, "I will continue to align my senior management team and organizational structure, and refine the Company’s strategy to ensure we deliver the best devices, mobile security and device management." It seems the Thorsten Heins era is over.
Nov 11, 2013Read Article >
BlackBerry wants its new executive chairman and interim CEO, John Chen, to turn the company around, and it's set him up with a pay package that should help to keep him on board. Chen is receiving 13 million shares of restricted stock — worth about $85 million today — vesting over the next five years. He'll also see $1 million each year in base salary, with a potential performance bonus of up to $2 million annually. If terminated without cause, he'll see a $6 million termination package.
Nov 8, 2013Read Article >
Back when BlackBerry was still on the market, some expected that the struggling company would ultimately be broken up and "sold for parts." But according to Reuters, BlackBerry's board roundly rejected this possibility, despite interest from several major competitors. Google, Microsoft, and even Apple — a name we hadn't heard before now — were reportedly drawn to BlackBerry's intellectual property. Cisco and Lenovo are mentioned as other potential buyers of BlackBerry's assets, though Reuters' report makes no mention of those Facebook rumors. In the end, BlackBerry's board apparently felt that a breakup would not "serve the interest of all stakeholders," Reuters says. Instead, earlier this week the company announced it wouldn't be selling to anyone. It's locked up $1 billion in funding and made sweeping changes to executive ranks in what may be BlackBerry's last opportunity at turning things around.
Nov 5, 2013
After months of rumors that BlackBerry was just one tech giant's whim away from being acquired, the struggling smartphone maker narrowly avoided that fate this morning by taking a last-minute cash injection and swapping out its CEO. That certainly doesn't mark the end of the line for BlackBerry acquisition talk, but it might put it on hold for now. Of course, getting here was no short road: just about everyone in the business has been rumored to eye BlackBerry's assets at one point or another. Let's take a look at some of the names that have turned up along the way.Read Article >
Mike Lazaridis co-founded BlackBerry — then RIM — back in 1984, and was only removed from his position as co-CEO last year. Now it seems that he wants a way back into the rebranded company, and as of just days ago he was reportedly working with several others, including Cerberus Capital Management and potentially even Qualcomm, to make a bid for it.
Nov 4, 2013
BlackBerry is bringing in a fixer. The struggling smartphone maker has long been run by its own talent — a founder, an early investor, and a guy who worked his way up the ranks — but in about two weeks it will bring on its first outsider: John Chen. Chen is known for turning around failing companies, and he’ll soon be tasked with doing that yet again as BlackBerry’s interim CEO. His appointment comes alongside a failed takeover by Fairfax capital that couldn't manage to attract any outside capital. Instead, Fairfax and a small group of investors are now pouring $1 billion more into the struggling phone maker, and betting big on Chen for a turnaround.Read Article >
Though Chen has worked in a number of executive positions over the years, he’s best known for his time as CEO of the enterprise services company Sybase. Once a competitor to tech giants like Oracle, Sybase fell hard in the late '90s. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported last year, Sybase’s fortunes were so bad that one research firm had pegged it with a 70 percent chance of failure when Chen stepped on board in 1998. The company was reportedly worth just $362 million then, but after 13 years under Chen it was acquired for $5.8 billion.
Nov 4, 2013
Today was always going to be a momentous day for BlackBerry, with a looming deadline for its proposed takeover deal with Fairfax Financial Holdings. As it turns out, the full takeover isn't taking place, but the company is going to receive an investment of $1 billion from Fairfax and a group of other institutional investors as it seeks to steer a new course. That will involve some major reshuffling at board level, starting with CEO Thorsten Heins, who is stepping down to be replaced by interim CEO John S. Chen. In the wake of the news, BlackBerry's already battered stock price has taken yet another blow, falling more than 18.5 percent in pre-market trading.Read Article >
Chen, BlackBerry's new interim leader, comes with strong credentials. He most recently played an instrumental role in turning around the fortunes of Sybase, a company that was once in a similarly distressed state to BlackBerry's current plight. His experience in the mobile enterprise business will be an asset and could potentially point to the future direction of the company. John Chen is also taking up the role of Executive Chair of BlackBerry's board, immediately taking on a great deal of both power and responsibility.
Nov 1, 2013
In September a Canadian investment firm made a $4.7 billion buyout offer to BlackBerry — but banks are so skeptical about the former smartphone giant the firm is reportedly having trouble raising the funds. Reuters reports that Fairfax Financial Holdings has found that several large banks don't want to be involved with the deal, primarily because they don't think the troubled company will be able to turn things around enough to make the investment worthwhile.Read Article >
Fairfax head Prem Watsa is said to be working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets to put together a group for the deal, but has reportedly found such efforts stymied. That's not to say a coalition is definitely out of the question. One could still come together despite the current difficulties, and it's also important to note that both financial entitles have considerable resources in their own right. The news comes as reports surface that BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis is working with Qualcomm to put together his own buyout group.
Oct 29, 2013
Facebook may be interested in buying BlackBerry. The Wall Street Journal reports that BlackBerry sent representatives out to California for a meeting with unnamed Facebook executives just last week to discuss a potential bid for the struggling phone maker. It's not clear how serious Facebook is about acquiring BlackBerry — or if Mark Zuckerberg's company is actually contemplating entering a bid to begin with. Zuckerberg has expressed a strong interest in getting Facebook on "as many phones as possible." But Facebook (along with HTC) suffered an embarrassing setback earlier this year when the HTC First, a showcase for Facebook's custom Android software, failed to resonate with consumers.Read Article >
BlackBerry has indicated it hopes to have a sale in place by November, with suitors rumored to include Samsung, Google, and others. Co-founder Mike Lazaridis and even former Apple CEO John Sculley are also said to be considering bids for the troubled company.
Oct 17, 2013
Lenovo's name has resurfaced as a possible suitor for BlackBerry. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Chinese company is "considering" a purchase of Blackberry, adding that "the firm has signed a non-disclosure agreement to look at the smartphone maker's books."Read Article >
Earlier this year Lenovo's name surfaced as a possible suitor for the troubled Canadian phone maker when an executive said that "We are looking at all opportunities — RIM and many others." Lenovo later distanced itself from such reports. Now that BlackBerry is openly courting buyers, however, it appears Lenovo is seriously looking into a purchase. A Canadian holding company Fairfax Financial offered $4.7 billion for BlackBerry last month, but it seems that offer may be falling through. Bloomberg reported earlier this week that a deal with Fairfax was becoming unlikely as BlackBerry's stock price falls below the firm's offer amount. This most recent round of acquisition talks surfaced after BlackBerry announced a disastrous quarter and its intentions to back away from the consumer market to focus on enterprise instead.
Oct 14, 2013
BlackBerry wants its customers and partners to know that it isn't going anywhere just yet. In an open letter published today, the struggling cellphone manufacturer says that its future isn't as bleak as many have suggested. "You can continue to count on BlackBerry," the company writes in the letter, which is published by CrackBerry. "We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free." The company admits that getting back on its feet won't be the easiest process, but it says that the headlines about how it's performing have been overly dramatic.Read Article >
The letter is a surprising acknowledgement from BlackBerry that it's aware of the view customers and partners have of it — that it's a sinking ship — and it clearly wants to dispel that notion. "Yes, there is a lot of competition out there," the company admits, "and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone." Notably, the letter speaks directly to passionate BlackBerry users, assuring them that the company has their back. But the letter may not give investors the assurance that they've been looking for: the company writes that there's a certain type of person who relies on its phones, but it doesn't suggest how it might put BB10 devices in even more hands.
Oct 10, 2013
BlackBerry's co-founders could eventually retake ownership of the company they helped build. Mike Lazaridis — who retired from all official duties at BlackBerry in May — and Douglas Fregin today filed a notice with the SEC that hints at a potential acquisition of all shares they don't already collectively own. BlackBerry has of course expressed interest in a potential sale, and Lazaridis and Fregrin point to this in one section of the document. They've recruited Goldman Sachs, Centerview Partners, and other advisors to assist "with their review of strategic alternatives."Read Article >
Oct 9, 2013
Some of the biggest names behind BlackBerry 10 have departed their ailing employer for the seemingly greener pastures of the startup world. Seven designers who were brought on by BlackBerry after it acquired their previous employer, The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), back in 2010, have left to form their own design group called Topp. TAT specialized in interface design, and its employees were initially responsible for polishing up BlackBerry's tablet-specific operating system. Since then, the TAT designers who left for Topp say that they became the "key players" in designing and developing BlackBerry 10.Read Article >
For BlackBerry users, it's certainly bad news nonetheless. BlackBerry has been struggling to stay in the running in the modern smartphone race, and a hit to some of its top design talent will be one more bump in the road that it'll have to handle. It's not clear when each of the designers departed though, so the loss of personnel may be old news to BlackBerry. Even so, as the company works to bring its nearly one-year-old OS on par with more mature operating systems like iOS and Android, talented designers aren't a great thing to lose.
Oct 5, 2013
In September BlackBerry received a $4.7 billion buyout offer from Canadian holding company Fairfax Financial, but it's still pursuing possible deals with other companies — and Google may be among them. Reuters reports that BlackBerry has asked for "preliminary expressions of interest" from a number of tech companies, including the search giant, Intel, LG, Samsung, and Cisco. It's asking to hear from the companies by next week, though it's not clear which of the them, if any, will actually bid on BlackBerry, and if the bids will be for the company as a whole or for a particular portion of its business.Read Article >
Despite its failure in the commercial smartphone space — last month BlackBerry announced it was retreating from the market entirely — BlackBerry's patents and network products have been highlighted as areas of interest for potential buyers. The move to sell isn't a surprise either. It was reported last month that BlackBerry's board was hoping to sell the company as soon as November, and with the troubled firm recently announcing 4,500 layoffs the urgency to find a buyer is likely only increasing.
Oct 2, 2013
BlackBerry's prospects appear to be more dire than ever. Following a layoff of 40 percent of its workforce and details that it would take a $934 million charge because of unsold Z10 phones, BlackBerry has laid out even more troubling news for investors in a filing with the SEC. It's modified one of its previous loss estimates to note that it now expects to lose $400 million throughout its fiscal 2014 and its following quarter, up from the earlier estimate of $100 million. It also acknowledges that its revenue and market share have dropped significantly since the same quarter last year, including in emerging markets where it once saw quick growth.Read Article >
The company's new operating system isn't off to the best start either. BlackBerry acknowledges that BB10's adoption rate has been slower than expected, though that may be an understatement: of the 5.9 million phones it sold between June and the end of August, 4.2 million were devices running BlackBerry 7 — its old OS.
Sep 27, 2013
It's no secret: BlackBerry is in bad shape. The company released its earnings for Q2 today, and the rough results directly follow the bleak guidance the Canadian firm offered last week when it announced 4,500 layoffs and a nearly $1 billion loss over the quarter. The final number revealed today is a $965 million loss, which is mainly accounted for by the awful sales of the Z10, the first phone to run BlackBerry 10. Unsold Z10s have forced the company to take "a primarily non-cash, pre-tax charge against inventory and supply commitments of approximately $934 million" in what it's calling the "Z10 Inventory Charge" — words that few will likely want to utter in Waterloo. In terms of revenue, the company reported $1.6 billion for the quarter, a 45 percent drop from a year ago and a 49 percent drop from last quarter. It shipped 3.7 million smartphones over the quarter, fewer than half of which ran BlackBerry 10.Read Article >
CEO Thorsten Heins said in a statement that "We are very disappointed with our operational and financial results this quarter and have announced a series of major changes to address the competitive hardware environment and our cost structure." Primarily, those changes involve moving the company's business away from consumer smartphones: it plans to cut its portfolio down to four devices while it "refocus our offering on our end-to-end solution of hardware, software and services for enterprises and the productive, professional end user." In the meantime, the company is also looking into a sale to add some cash to its operations: Canadian investment company Fairfax put in a $4.7 billion buyout offer earlier this week.
Sep 25, 2013
With BlackBerry facing a tenuous and uncertain future, T-Mobile has decided it's time for a shift in strategy. According to Reuters, the US carrier will no longer stock BlackBerry devices in its retail stores citing weak demand among everyday consumers. Instead, T-Mobile will now ship in-store and online orders directly to buyers. VP David Carey told Reuters that enterprise and business customers represent a large percentage of the BlackBerrys that T-Mobile does sell, and the company will still have demo models of BlackBerry handsets on hand at its stores — you just won't be able to take one home. Sales may not be halting entirely, but this isn't exactly a strong show of support from T-Mobile. Other carriers following suit could spell significant trouble for the storied phone maker.Read Article >
Update: While T-Mobile may be removing BlackBerry devices from store shelves, All Things D has learned that Verizon and AT&T will be carrying on as usual for the time being.
Sep 24, 2013Read Article >
If you're waiting for BlackBerry's BBM messaging app to hit Google Play and the iOS App Store, you'll be waiting a while longer. Over the weekend more than 1 million people downloaded a leaked version of BBM for Android, causing BlackBerry to delay the launch of its app for both Google and Apple's mobile operating systems. On Monday, BBM head Andrew Bocking said in a blog post that "this will take some time and I do not anticipate launching this week."
Sep 23, 2013
BlackBerry has officially filed a letter of intent with Canadian holding company Fairfax Financial, an offer that could lead to it returning to private ownership. The news follows BlackBerry halting trading on its shares, just as it did before announcing mass layoffs and its retreat from the consumer market last week, and it's not unlike Michael Dell's attempt to take his company private. According to a press release, the deal is valued at around $4.7 billion, with stockholders receiving $9 a share in cash.Read Article >
As we've heard before, BlackBerry will be focusing on its enterprise market, which remains stronger than its ailing consumer base. This move, according to Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa, will allow BlackBerry to "continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company with a focus on delivering superior and secure enterprise solutions to BlackBerry customers around the world." The letter is a preliminary step to the company going private under Fairfax's ownership, but the BlackBerry board can also receive other offers — once again, something that has significantly delayed Dell's plans to go private. These offers would need to be made by November 4th, the point at which BlackBerry and Fairfax expect to have hammered out an agreement.
Sep 21, 2013
Yesterday, BlackBerry revealed its plans to retreat from the consumer market amid plan to lay off 4,500 workers and a looming $950 million quarterly loss. The company is actively looking for a buyer, and now several reports have pegged a somewhat surprising option: BlackBerry co-founder and former co-chief executive officer Mike Lazaridis. Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal cited sources saying that Lazaridis has approached private equity firms about making a bid for the company; The New York Times specifically states that he's reached out to the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group about putting together an offer. That said, the talks were labeled as "preliminary" and may not lead to an actual bids.Read Article >
Lazaridis stepped down in January of 2012 along with fellow co-CEO Jim Balsillie, and eventually left the company altogether this past March — but he remains one of the company's largest individual shareholders, a position that could help him if he decides to move forward with a potential bid to take BlackBerry private. That said, Lazaridis also presided over a dramatic downturn at the company and is arguably one of the key figures responsible for BlackBerry's failures over the last several years. We'll have to wait and see if that history makes him a tough sell to the rest of BlackBerry's board and shareholders if he decides to go forward with this potential bid.
Sep 20, 2013
As rumored earlier this week, BlackBerry is to lay off 4,500 employees, around 40 percent of its workforce, and retreat from the consumer market. The layoff news comes in an unexpected early earnings guidance release, in which the struggling manufacturer reveals it expects to book losses totalling almost $1 billion in the most recent quarter.Read Article >
The massive loss is mainly attributable to the disastrous sales performance of the company's Z10 smartphone, its first to run its new BlackBerry 10 OS. BlackBerry says it will take a "primarily non-cash, pre-tax charge against inventory and supply commitments in the second quarter of approximately $930 million to $960 million" due mainly to the Z10. In the second quarter, the company shipped just 3.7 million smartphones, most of which were running BlackBerry 7, the company's older operating system. The company was shy in revealing exactly how many BlackBerry 10 devices it sold last quarter.