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BlackBerry open letter to customers is long on cliches

'We are here to stay' -- interim CEO John Chen

By , Network World
December 02, 2013 04:22 PM ET

Network World - An "open letter" from BlackBerry's interim CEO, John Chen, to "enterprise customers and partners" is filled with wishful thinking, unfounded promises and a wealth of clichés. But without actions, the reassuring words -- if anything -- underline BlackBerry's precarious future.

Our ‘for sale’ sign has been taken down and we are here to stay.

The letter, posted Monday, essentially reiterates points that Chen has made earlier since being named Thorsten Heins’ replacement after the collapse in sales of the new BlackBerry 10 smartphones. Heins also had made many of the same points during his tenure as CEO.

“The segments they have highlighted are the same segments they have had, so it signals that they believe that there is upside in all of them,” says Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile at Gartner. “The market will of course vote on that.”

Another Gartner analyst warned in September, in light of the pending shakeup in BlackBerry management and the possible sale of the company, that enterprise customers should be weighing alternatives.

RELATED: Management vendors race to help move BlackBerry users to Android and iOS

“Gartner recommends that our [BlackBerry enterprise] clients take no more than six months to consider and implement alternatives to BlackBerry,” Gartner analyst Bill Menezes was quoted as saying. “We're emphasizing that all clients should immediately ensure they have backup mobile data management plans and are at least testing alternative devices to BlackBerry.”

In his open letter, Chen begins by promising to “set the story straight” in contrast to “a lot of noise in the marketplace” and attempts by rivals to lure away BlackBerry’s enterprise customer base, which is key to the company’s resurrection plan.

“Our ‘for sale’ sign has been taken down and we are here to stay,” Chen asserts. His basis: the billion-dollar investment in BlackBerry by Canada’s Fairfax Financial and other investors. This, he tells readers, is a “vote of confidence in the future of BlackBerry.” Others may see it as simply a bet, in the hope that their previous investments in BlackBerry eventually will be recoverable.

“The investments you’ve made in BlackBerry infrastructure are secure,” Chen says. That may depend on what one means by “secure.” Some number of enterprise customers are phasing out their BlackBerry infrastructure as Android and, especially, iOS devices become vastly more widely deployed than BlackBerry devices. Others are simply maintaining older versions of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to support the remaining BlackBerry handsets.

It’s not yet clear how aggressively existing customers are upgrading to the renamed BlackBerry Enterprise Services 10, with new code to support other operating systems, such as iOS and Android, and a battery of improvements that are designed to make BES10 a linchpin for enterprise mobility security and management. Depending on the costs of the upgrade, enterprises may foresee three years of use on a depreciation schedule. Nothing in such an upgrade commits these customers to BlackBerry’s future.

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