11/03/2014 - BlackBerry's identity crisis continues
To say that BlackBerry's had it tough these past few years would be putting it mildly, if not too delicately for a company emerging from a period of willful ignorance. The Waterloo-based outfit, formerly known as Research in Motion, played an embarrassing game of catch-up in the mobile space it once dominated. An uphill rehabilitation that saw it acquire QNX to build a new operating system, release a half-baked tablet, rebrand as BlackBerry in search of a new identity and, tellingly, hire Alicia Keys as a creative figurehead.
And none of it mattered -- not even the forced infusion of Ms. Keys' questionable zeitgeist-y influence. The BlackBerry of today has so far failed to resurrect sufficient interest in its fledgling mobile platform and devices, leading to the ouster of former CEO Thorsten Heins, the very recent installation of John Chen and a redoubled focus on the enterprise set that once was core to the company's business. So why does the company still seem to be engaged in an internal tug-of-war over its identity? I had a chance to speak with Gary Klassen, longtime BlackBerry employee and principal architect, here at SXSW in the hopes he could shed some light on what the Blackberry of today stands for and where it's going.
If you worship at the BlackBerry altar and are in dire need of a cloud storage service that isn't Dropbox, Box or Mega, today's your lucky day. Now you can dump your files in Microsoft's OneDrive by way of a newly released BlackBerry 10 app. Like the Android and iOS versions before it, this OneDrive app lets you automatically upload your photos and videos as well as share your files with far-flung cohorts. Just be mindful of your limits: OneDrive (which went by "SkyDrive" before Microsoft got hit with a lawsuit) offers up 7GB of free storage to new users. That's still better than the 2GB that Dropbox gives away gratis, but Box and Mega offer 10GB and 50GB of free space, respectively. Choose wisely... or sign up for all of them and surrender yourself to the cloud.
Filed under: Mobile
Source: BlackBerry World
Wearable devices seem to be a hot trend in the wireless industry right now, but BlackBerry isn't taking the bait... at least, not yet. When asked about his company's plans at Mobile World Congress, CEO John Chen was very straight-forward in confessing that he has no current plans for bringing a wearable device to market. That doesn't mean it won't happen down the road at some point, of course, but it's clear that this particular market segment isn't really an area of interest or focus right now -- considering the company is working hard to bring out fresh devices and is in the midst of getting back to becoming profitable, and it appears that BlackBerry doesn't believe that such a device would really make a dent in its bottom line yet.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen is here at MWC and has some device news. The executive announced progress on the phone codenamed Jakarta (shown off above), which will be coming out to Indonesia in April. The company plans to sell the device, which is a collaboration between BlackBerry and Foxconn, for under $200. Chen also tells us that there will be an LTE version coming out to other parts of the world at some time in the future; joking, Chen mentioned that it would come out "sometime before I die."
Additionally, Chen also officially confirmed that a device known as the Q20 is in the works, and will be coming out sometime before the end of the year.
If you hadn't heard, BlackBerry chief John Chen isn't happy with T-Mobile -- he believes the carrier fired a shot across the bow when it enticed BlackBerry users to switch phones in a recent promotion. To mend that bruised relationship, the magenta network is launching a limited-time trade-in offer that gives loyal users a strong incentive to upgrade. As of February 21st, T-Mobile will give you $200 for your existing BlackBerry, and $250 if you're upgrading from a T-Mobile BlackBerry to a BB10 device like the Q10 or Z10. The payout is the same regardless of the device's age, so long as it's in good condition; if you're still rocking a Curve 3G, you'll get the full amount. Market share trends suggest that there won't be too many people upgrading to new BlackBerrys, but the olive branch is welcome all the same.
If you thought Typo's iPhone keyboard looked an awful lot like the keyboard from a BlackBerry Q10, you're not alone. BlackBerry has just sued Typo in a Northern California court for alleged patent infringement. The slide-on peripheral is a "blatant" copy of BlackBerry's signature input feature, according to the company. We've reached out to Typo for commentary, but it may not have many options -- the crew in Waterloo has patented a lot of keyboards, and it's hard to deny the strong resemblance.
30/12/2013 - Tech's biggest misfires of 2013
You can't win 'em all. The adage certainly holds in the fast-paced world of technology, where one small slip can put a damper on your entire year. Every year, among all of the celebrations of top gadgets and big news stories, we like to take a moment to acknowledge the other side of things. This time out, it's a pretty diverse list, from flubbed Kickstarter launches to massive governmental privacy breaches and yet another really lousy year for one smartphone manufacturer. But don't worry everyone; the year 2013 is nearly over.
24/12/2013 - BlackBerry's latest casualty: Two unreleased phones
2013 continues to be a downer year for the company formerly known as Research In Motion. The Wall Street Journal has just uncovered a tidbit in BlackBerry's latest earnings report that states two unreleased phones had to be cancelled due to poor sales of its existing handsets. Apparently code-named Cafe and Kopi, they were slated to be sold as budget phones for emerging markets but had to be nixed to "mitigate the identified inventory risk." This comes on the heels of BlackBerry's announcement that it's partnering up with FoxConn for device manufacturing and canceling its annual conference in order to save costs. It all seems rather dire, but the Wall Street Journal also reports that the company is still working on a couple of higher-end handsets internally code-named Ontario and Windermere. Whether or not those phones will see the light of day, however, remains to be seen.
Source: Wall Street Journal
This morning's earnings report may not have been BlackBerry's favorite moment, but John Chen seems confident in his vision for the company's future -- and his ability to turn things around. Speaking with a small group of analysts and reporters, Chen mentioned that this coming year will be critical for BlackBerry, saying that it will be an investment year. We can't say we disagree; certainly the deal with Foxconn (which Chen specifies does not involve any licensing agreements, ensuring government relations remain under BlackBerry's control) will require a lot of additional effort and resources on his company's part. Chen seems adamant that this "investment" will not include layoffs, however, "if [he] can avoid it." Certainly no guarantee, of course, but Chen is confident that this quarter was just a hiccup that will help BlackBerry find future financial success, and that he expects his company to be cash flow-neutral by 2015 and profitable by 2016, and wants to do it using growth, rather than saving money through cuts. In fact, Chen plans to build up an Enterprise sales force "to take it back to the market."
Chen also spoke to his new position as chief executive, saying that the "interim" title has been removed, and he's now the man in charge for the foreseeable future. But for how long, exactly? As long as it takes to get the company on strong financial footing. "My step one was to have the company financially out of harm's way. I can't say I've done it today, but we are on a good path." He definitely wins the prize for the most confident CEO of the year.
Additionally, Chen mentioned that BlackBerry will be building a security technology center in Washington, DC to work with big government clients like the Department of Defense. This new center, which will be several thousand square feet, will primarily employ engineers (although he doesn't specify if these engineers will be transferred there or if BlackBerry will enjoy a hiring spree). This makes sense, given Chen's insistence that one of the company's biggest areas of focus must be on security for regulated industries, in which government relations will play a huge role.
The high-level shakeups aren't over at BlackBerry just because the company has a new CEO. The company has just let go of Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear (pictured at left) and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben (right), both of whom had assumed their roles roughly one year ago. There's no mention of immediate replacements. The Waterloo firm is also replacing Chief Financial Officer Brian Bidulka with the company's Compliance head James Yersh; Bidulka will stay on as an advisor for the rest of the fiscal year to ease the transition. CEO John Chen hasn't provided explanations for the individual departures, but he describes the executive shuffle as necessary for focusing on BlackBerry's "core strength" in mobile device management. Let's just hope that Chen is better at engineering a turnaround than his predecessors.
If your company produced a device that, while technically accomplished, managed to lose you $1 billion a few months later, you'd probably try and pretend that it never existed. That's not the approach that BlackBerry is taking with the Z10, however. Instead, the beleaguered smartphone maker has teamed up with Porsche Design to create the P'9982, a gussied-up version of the touchscreen smartphone designed to tempt gold course-bound executives and the super rich in ways that the original evidently failed to do. We've just got one of the devices in our hand, and we thought we'd run the rule over it to see how the other half live.
It has been possible to snag an unlocked BlackBerry Q10 or Z10 in the US for a while if you've been willing to search around, but you now won't have to. BlackBerry has quietly begun selling unrestricted GSM variants of the two smartphones through its US site at prices of $449 for a Z10 and $549 for a Q10. Either device remains LTE-capable, and both should play nicely with AT&T and T-Mobile. The direct sales aren't likely to attract many converts, but they should help American fans who may have a tough time finding a BlackBerry in stores.
BlackBerry has just reported a $935 million hit in Q2 due entirely to what it's calling a "Z10 Inventory Charge" -- in other words, a charge against inventory and supply commitments for a flagship handset that is failing to sell. Echoing Microsoft's catastrophic write-down due to unsold Surface RT inventory, this single write-down was enough to wipe out much of the company's quarterly revenue of $1.6 billion. When added to an additional loss due to corporate restructuring, it resulted in a final GAAP loss for BlackBerry of $965 million.
26/09/2013 - BlackBerry manufacturing partner Jabil Circuit says it's looking at how it will 'wind down the relationship'
The news for BlackBerry is just going from bad to worse these days. The latest development comes from its manufacturing partner Jabil Circuit, which has apparently had enough of the company's troubles and is looking for a way out. Speaking on the company's quarterly earnings call yesterday, Jabil CEO Mark Mondello said that "we are faced with a strong possibility of disengaging with BlackBerry," adding, "our team has worked diligently over the past few days to comprehend the recently announced changes," and that "we're in discussions right now on how we're going to wind down the relationship."
As All Things D notes, BlackBerry is Jabil's second-biggest customer (behind Apple), so this is no doubt not a decision it's taking lightly, but it looks like it's one it intends to move quickly on. Mondello went on to say that while the company is looking for a path that's in the best interest of its shareholders and also "supports the needs of BlackBerry," it plans to "take a restructuring charge, move swiftly and decisively and mitigate the impact to FY '14 as best we can."
Source: All Things D
26/09/2013 - Motorola plans hiring spree in BlackBerry's hometown
Unless BlackBerry bosses embark on some wild scorched earth policy as they retreat from the smartphone business, their hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, should prove to be fertile ground for other mobile companies looking to expand. Motorola could become one of the first to capitalize on the situation, having just opened a small office in Kitchener-Waterloo, where its parent company Google has already had an R&D base since 2006. Speaking to the Financial Post, Motorola Canada's engineering director, Derek Phillips, said he has "big plans" for the area and is "optimistic" about finding the right mobile tech talent. He stopped short of saying he wants BB workers specifically, instead pointing to other sources of brainpower like the University of Waterloo (which happens to be the home of the Lazaridis-backed Quantum-Nano Centre). For the sake of the 4,500 people recently left unemployed due to BlackBerry's strategic failures, however, we hope he was just being diplomatic.
Source: Financial Post
23/09/2013 - BlackBerry enters agreement for $4.7 billion sale of company to consortium led by Fairfax Financial
For the second time in as many trading days, shares of BlackBerry were halted in advance of some big news from the company. Today's news is no less big. BlackBerry has just announced that it's signed a letter of intent agreement for a sale of the company for $4.7 billion to a consortium led by Fairfax Financial (the company's largest shareholder).
23/09/2013 - Z30 - Blackberry’s New Flagship Smartphone
20/09/2013 - Bad news from Blackberry: 4,500 jobs to be cut, expected Q2 net operating loss of over $950 million
Things haven't been going well at BlackBerry for awhile, what with lackluster adoption of BB10 and the hardware running it, and rumors that massive layoffs are coming before the end of the year. Today, the company confirmed the latter rumor, announcing that it will lay off around 4,500 employees as a part of a plan to reduce its operating expenditures by half over the next year. The plan's necessitated by an expected Q2 2014 net operating loss of almost one billion (955-995 million) dollars, driven primarily by the lackluster sale of its BB10 phones -- the company will take a pre-tax charge of $930-960 million which can be attributed mostly to the Z10. Blackberry expects revenue for Q2 to be $1.6 billion, which is roughly half of the $3.1 billion it pulled in last quarter.
Needless to say, the financial outlook for the company isn't good, and some changes are in order. To try to turn things around, Blackberry is going to refocus on its enterprise offerings and will reduce its device portfolio from six devices to four, with two high end and two entry level phones. And, don't get it twisted, the days of BlackBerry courting mainstream consumers is all but over-- its future phones will be aimed at the "enterprise and prosumers."
BlackBerry hasn't been hiding the fact that it's cutting back on its workforce, but a new report from The Wall Street Journal today suggests that another particularly big round of layoffs could be in store. Citing people familiar with the matter, the paper says that the company is preparing to cut up to 40 percent of its workforce by the end of the year, with the layoffs expected to "cut across all departments" and "occur in waves." As the WSJ notes, the most recent tally of employees the company has disclosed is 12,700, which is already down from 17,000 two years ago.
This latest news also comes after an report earlier this month that at least some BlackBerry board members are pushing for a speedy sale of the company, which reportedly could happen as early as November. For its part, BlackBerry isn't commenting on the specific number of layoffs, telling the WSJ only that "organizational moves will continue to occur to ensure we have the right people in the right roles to drive new opportunities in mobile computing."
Source: The Wall Street Journal
16/09/2013 - Refresh Roundup: week of September 9th, 2013
Your smartphone and / or tablet is just begging for an update. From time to time, these mobile devices are blessed with maintenance refreshes, bug fixes, custom ROMs and anything in between, and so many of them are floating around that it's easy for a sizable chunk to get lost in the mix. To make sure they don't escape without notice, we've gathered every possible update, hack, and other miscellaneous tomfoolery we could find during the last week and crammed them into one convenient roundup. If you find something available for your device, please give us a shout at tips at engadget dawt com and let us know. Enjoy!
Filed under: Mobile
Details about an eventual sale of BlackBerry are slowly but surely starting to pick up steam. Following a confirmation from the Waterloo-based company about it being open to seeking "strategic alternatives," The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that members of the board are "aiming to run a fast auction process" which could be finalized as early as November of this year. Sourcing the well-informed people familiar with the matter, the publication goes on to say that BlackBerry has narrowed its list of potential buyers, with the sales process "expected to begin soon." We'll see how long it takes for Thorsten Heins and Co. to find someone interested in the troubled brand, but something tells us it won't be much longer before this story reaches its climax.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Just before a smartphone turns up at the debutante ball, the internet comes alive with frenzied claims about what the new hardware will offer. While most of 'em turn out to be wishful thinking on behalf of whoever entered the data, we imagine that standards are a little stricter over at the Wireless Power Consortium. It's there that a listing has popped up claiming that BlackBerry's as-yet unannounced Z30 will support Qi wireless charging. The listing goes on to say that the smartphone will pack a medium power receiver, capable of pulling 120 watts from a charger, which should be enough to juice that (rumored) 2,800mAh battery in short order.
Source: Wireless Power Consortium
12/08/2013 - BlackBerry confirms it's looking for 'strategic alternatives' such as sale or going private
Remember the rumor that BlackBerry was planning to take itself private? Just a few days later and the company has confirmed that some very fundamental discussions are indeed taking place. In a press release, the Canadian smartphone maker revealed that a committee has been formed to look for "strategic alternatives" to push BlackBerry 10, which could involve a merger, selling the company or taking BlackBerry private. Naturally, there's no indication that anything will actually change at the beleaguered company, but at least we know Thorsten Heins is actively pursuing new options.
Via: The Globe and Mail
Those BlackBerry Z30 rumors (which was known previously as the A10) might turn out to be for real after all, if this early hands-on video from Vietnamese outlet Cellphone S is to be believed. The footage shows what is presumably the BlackBerry Z30 in all its glory, with what is apparently a 5-inch AMOLED display with 295 ppi and 720p (1,280 x 720) resolution. Purported specs include a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, a rear 8-megapixel camera, a front-facing 2-megapixel cam, a 2,800 mAh battery, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and it's said to ship with BlackBerry 10.2 as well. Perhaps more interesting to our US audience is that it appears to have the AT&T logo on the back, hinting that it may arrive on our shores sooner than later. Have a peek at the video after the break, and hit the source for more close-up pics of what could be yet another BlackBerry savior.
Source: Channel S