For better or worse, BlackBerry Ltd will keep forging its way through the ever-thickening forest that is the smartphone market. On a many ways, Friday was a difficult day for the Canadian tech firm. It was the day BlackBerry shared its Q4 earnings. And though great progress was seen in a number of key areas, the company admittedly managed to disappoint us in others.
Despite its repeated and long-standing trend of sales losses, most of us had high hopes for BlackBerry’s hardware business this time around. Its latest device, the Priv — a revolutionary effort by the tech giant to revive its dying handset component — had even the best of Wall Street routing for it. After all, BlackBerry had adopted the world’s most favorite mobile OS. Thus the Priv promised to offer the best of both worlds. All the conveniences of Android were now coupled with the top-notch security and efficiency expected of a BlackBerry. Could anyone ask for a better smartphone?
The answer is an apparent yes, yes we can. Another quarter came to an end and, again, BlackBerry had even less smartphones sales to shows than the last. It was perhaps very naive to think thing that a simple switch in its operating system would be enough to pull the company back from irrelevancy. In the end, the Priv is just another new BlackBerry handset that many people would still overlook when looking for a smartphone.
The hard truth is that BlackBerry is no longer the smartphone king it once was. The Ontario-based tech firm has taken a very steep decline from where it was in 2009. It held nearly 50 percent of the world’s smartphone market back then. Nearly a decade ago, if you wanted a decent smartphone, you knew that you had to get yourself a BlackBerry. The company’s devices made typing and scrolling with your thumbs a fun and easy trend on the most secure and effecient handsets around.
Those days are gone now, and it appears the company is in too deep a hole to climb out of. BlackBerry didn’t stay unrivaled for very long. Consumer electronics giants like Samsung and Apple quickly grew more and more popular. A few years later, they overtook the Canadian smartphone maker, which had come to be known as rigid and unyielding as its app development began to lag. The BlackBerry OS lost a lot of appeal with was accelerated by other rising stars like iOS and Android.
Today, BlackBerry holds less than one percent of the smartphone market and continues to fall. Back in 2011, the company managed to sell around 13.2 million handsets in the space of three months. This recent quarter produced handset sales of 600,000. The Priv came with a lot of reassuring hype last quarter. Reviews were good, demand seemed high, and top retailers struggled to keep the new device on their shelves. Even BlackBerry had to delay its second wave of Priv shipments to adjust for the unprecedented demand.
However, it appears as though that was all mere launch excitement. Despite being available in 34 countries, BlackBerry’s latest Android-powered failed to draw in our attention. It is a high-end phone in a limited market that is already saturated too. Based on what we’ve seen over the years, it’s safe to assume that BlackBerry will really struggle to making a comeback in the smartphone space. I mean, what else can it do?
The company’s CEO John Chen said not long after the Priv’s launch in November that if the firm failed to pull in a profit on its handsets this time around, then it would let go of its smartphone business all together. Staring in the face of face of failure the company still holds hope of a turnaround. Chen said after the results were shared that he still thinks the firm has shot in the phone segment. “Hopefully, I’m not naive.”
Not the End for BlackBerry
But what if BlackBerry did do away with the smartphone business that made it a world-class name? Would the company be no more? Far from it actually. In fact, BlackBerry is already on its way to becoming an unrivaled giant in the software and security segment. Chen appears to understand very well where the company stands in the smartphone market. Bearing this, BlackBerry has taken significant steps to make a turnaround.
Now the tech giant is focused on software security and has been making numerous acquisitions to strengthen itself in the mobile security market. BlackBerry is trusted by governments and many industry leaders to secure their mobile communications. Though hardware sales have fallen, software and services grew by a 106 percent. That’s a commendable growth and shows steady progress in its turnaround strategy.
In a few years, BlackBerry may not be known a handset maker. However, it will still be massive industry influencer aso a top security provider.