BlackBerry director: fighting tech giants is tough — we may have to go niche

Lauren Granger: Staff Reporter
Looks like Lenovo really did want to buy BlackBerry

If you were tasked with figuring out BlackBerry’s future, what would you do? Pin all your hopes on its new phones and revamped operating system? Shift the focus to enterprise software? Or sell it for parts? Well, those are some of the questions facing director Bert Nordberg, who seems to be leaning towards a future where BlackBerry is a “niche company”.

Noderberg, who is part of a special committee which was formed to explore strategic alternatives for the company, told the Wall Street Journal that he thinks the company can survive if it dials back on its broader ambitions and focuses instead on certain subsets of its current business. “I think BlackBerry is able to survive as a niche company,” he said in an interview. “But being a niche company means deciding to be a niche company. Historically, BlackBerry has had larger ambitions. But battling giants like Apple, Google and Samsung is tough.”

While BlackBerry’s new devices launched earlier this year in a bid to take back the marketshare it has lost over the years, the arrival of BlackBerry 10 hasn’t signalled the type of turn around BlackBerry fans were hoping for. Although its new line up has garnered some positive reviews, sales of its flagship qwerty keyboard Q10 have been questionable and major developers have still to release dedicated apps for the platform. Traditionally, the smartphone manufacturer has been a strong player in the enterprise space and praised for the security of its systems — but Noderberg didn’t specify if these were the areas they company was planning to focus on in future, simply saying that there are “subsets within the company that it can get rid of.”

“BlackBerry’s unique assets make it stand apart from other phone makers,” Nordberg said. “BlackBerry is strong on the enterprise business, its products are NSA-proof in the sense that you can’t intercept their communication, its handsets’ keyboards have many fans around the globe, and the company has a leading worldwide data network.”

While it seems we’ll have to wait for any conclusive information on the future of the Canadian giant, the possibility of a sale isn’t out of the picture. When it announced its decision to “explore strategic alternatives”, BlackBerry said that these options could include “among others, possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company or other possible transactions.” In the mean time, BlackBerry is focussing on the continued roll out of its new devices, and the upcoming launch of BlackBerry Messenger for Android and iOS.