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Taken to the gleaners
September 23, 2013 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Blackberry will be harvested by a private equity firm for US $4.7 billion. Generally blamed for their own decline by disdaining the massive rush of popularity of competing smartphones and becoming increasingly well-known for the bizarre behavior of their leadership, Blackberry hoped to turn things around by ejecting their co-CEOs, rebranding from Research In Motion to the name of their sole product, and launching a new spate of products: OS 10, new generation of touchscreen phones, and planning a second attempt at tablets. In spite of some misguided punditry predicting a new era, they won no love from either the reviewers or the public.

If the sale is approved by regulators, the price will approximate Apple's income for three days of iPhone 5C/5S sales.
posted by ardgedee (85 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel like the writing has been on the wall since at least the first iPhone, if not even longer. Botched all around.
posted by mbatch at 3:00 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Sure, we're going to release BB10 for the Playbook! ... Oh wait, never mind, no we're not" certainly didn't earn them any fans.

I'd bought a PB for cheap ($55; it was very nice hardware at the time) just to play with BB10. Ended up selling it to a friend for what I paid for it; all he needed was a browser and wifi.
posted by mrbill at 3:07 PM on September 23, 2013


Wow, Rob Enderle (the misguided punditry link) is still around and still saying stupid stuff?
posted by octothorpe at 3:07 PM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


That input method where the user flicks words up into the text field is pretty sweet. I hope Apple buys a chunk of RIM, just for that patent alone.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:10 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a great post. I predict that BlackBerry will serve as a cautionary tale for business majors for years to come.
posted by 4ster at 3:13 PM on September 23, 2013


Rob Enderle is immortal! Wherever a completely wrong or ridiculously obvious pull-quote is needed, wherever a misguided analysis can help "balance" a story: Rob Enderle will be there!
The reorganization enables BlackBerry to scale back its sales ambitions and no longer aim to compete at the retail level with Samsung or Apple, said technology analyst Rob Enderle.

"The trick is getting people to look at this thing fresh," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at tech research firm Enderle Group [about the Microsoft Surface 2]. "If it carries the stigma of the old product, it's not going to sell any better now."
posted by RogerB at 3:13 PM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope this won't hurt the funding the RIM founders have put into theoretical physics research (ie, anybody know if any of that funding was in RIM stock?).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:16 PM on September 23, 2013


When President Obama was first elected, the Secret service wanted him to give up his Blackberry. I thought it was just a turf war, but maybe the SS knew what they were doing.
posted by Cranberry at 3:17 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This article is from 2008, and nothing has changed. The chain of logic is sound, and the writing has been on the wall.

Still sad to see it end like this, though.
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:20 PM on September 23, 2013


LobsterMitten, FAQ at Perimeter Institute:

Q: Is Perimeter Institute tied to BLACKBERRY – or any other private companies?
A: No. Perimeter has no affiliation to BlackBerry. The Institute was founded in part through the personal philanthropy of Mike Lazaridis, Founder, Board Vice-Chair, and Chair of the Innovation Committee of BlackBerry (formerly Reasearch In Motion Limited).


Not sure what it means for their ongoing funding, though, or whether their endowment was weighted with RIMM stock.
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:22 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fairfax isn't a Private Equity firm. Its pretty much a wannabe Canadian Buffett's version of Berkshire Hathaway.

By wannabe I don't mean that Prem Watsa is a poser such much as he's sort of like a religious fanatic where his diety lives in Omaha. That sounds more negative than I mean it to be.

Its not a real deal yet though - only an indiction of an intent to bid - basically sounds like Watsa (who already owns 10% of BBBY) really really really wants to smoke out a higher bidder if there is one, and if there isn't he's happy to buy it at the current price.

Also I'm not sure they've announced who else is participating in the consortium yet - but if I had to guess it'll be some the quasi-governmental funds in Toronto - Ontario Teachers, OMERS, etc, etc.
posted by JPD at 3:28 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


As recently as last year Lazardis donated a big chunk of money (21M) for scholarships and endowed chairs.

I very much doubt a university would take stock in a company as a basis for long term planning. Typically these days they calculate the annual cost of running a program/scholarship/Chair as 4% annual income from an endowment - that is, if you want to spend 4 million a year on a program in perpetuity then you need 100 million in the bank.

A number of universities got in trouble recently because they invested their endowments in the stock market and had to go into base budget to cover their endowed programs, but that's a different story I think.

However, I am sure Waterloo is gutted to see their golden goose take ill in this way.
posted by Rumple at 3:28 PM on September 23, 2013


If it weren't for the iPhone and Android (and maybe even Windows Phone) they'd be fine.
posted by tommasz at 3:30 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I very much doubt a university would take stock in a company as a basis for long term planning.

eh - its not as uncommon as you would think - usually they try to diversify it ASAP, but sometimes that doesn't happen for weird reasons.
posted by JPD at 3:30 PM on September 23, 2013


If it weren't for the iPhone and Android (and maybe even Windows Phone) they'd be fine

They beat Danger, at least.
posted by aubilenon at 3:34 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


What's really wrong with BlackBerry (or, how computing platforms die) [2010].
posted by weston at 3:40 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Blackberry is not their sole product unfortunately. This all puts the future of QNX up in the air as well.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:40 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blackberry will be harvested by a private equity firm for US $4.7 billion.

I think it's important to note that Fairfax is a Canadian company, for whatever it's worth. Blackberry has benefited from loads of indirect investment from the Canadian government, and while it's a scenario that points out the inherent risk of government investing in private enterprises, at the same time it's good that the technology has a fighting chance of staying in Canada.

This is a very sad day for the Canadian technology industry. While there are other home-grown tech companies in Waterloo besides RIM, at the same time the company's failure demonstrates how atavistic Canadian industry has become since, oh, 2006 when the Calgary School and the Mike Harris retreads took over.

We are busy specializing in commodities like tar sands and LNG that can be bought elsewhere cheaper, rather than doing what RIM did so well, which was developing a scalable product that can be replicated and sold all over the planet, while providing high-paying jobs here in Canada (Blackberry devices, were, until recently, assembled in Canada - maybe if they had labeled themselves, "free-range, GMO-free, organic and fair trade" more people would have bought their products, perhaps at Whole Foods or something).
posted by KokuRyu at 3:41 PM on September 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's unfortunate, BB's current state of affairs. I have a Z10 and love it and definitely think it's an excellent product, far better than the iPhone at least. It seems that it never really had a chance to succeed though. People's minds had already been made up and they weren't willing to give Blackberry a second chance.
posted by jamincan at 3:42 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was in government I did like my Blackberry Curve (mostly because it did contact management better than anything else) but when I left government the damn things were too expensive.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:43 PM on September 23, 2013


I just got a q10 and I feel like I'm in Weekend at Bernie's; from all indications my friend is dead, but I'm still having a really good time with him. If RIM had passed on the Playbook and swapped the release dates of the q10 and z10 I don't think we'd have this here thread.
posted by Challahtronix at 3:45 PM on September 23, 2013


However, I am sure Waterloo is gutted to see their golden goose take ill in this way.

Yeah, I graduated from U of Waterloo with a Math(/CS) degree ten years ago. Research in Motion was right next to the campus and an inspiration for the CS/engineering students, especially after the collapse of Nortel (which was touted as the homegrown success story in our "management science" textbooks - probably one of the only examples where new versions were actually needed).
posted by fatehunter at 3:46 PM on September 23, 2013


Nortel is a good analogue in some ways: 60 to 0 in 5 seconds. Looked unbeatable, then just imploded.
posted by Rumple at 3:49 PM on September 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Earlier this year I worked for a social services agency that insisted we use Blackberries for all communications. I remember it was incredibly awkward to try typing on that tiny keyboard, especially after having gotten used to Swype. In fact the whole interface just seemed primitive and unintuitive to use. In short, it was a pain.

Then again, right now I'm associating the whole experience with bedbugs, so I may be remembering unfairly... no wait, no I'm not. It was totally annoying to use.
posted by happyroach at 3:53 PM on September 23, 2013


I've had the Q10 since it was first released. Very disappointing overall - and I had been a big supporter up till then. The main issue for me is the goddamn clutter: how hard is it to design an interface or a screen that just has what you need, and makes that available intuitively? Also, apparently there is no way to keep the music app from not opening, so, yes, I have to keep on and keep on closing the thing even though there's not one song on my phone. I say good riddance: the purple koolaid is looking tasty and I'll be getting an iPhone next time. (Generally loving my iPad.)
posted by anothermug at 3:59 PM on September 23, 2013


I had a blackberry in 2004 and IT WAS AWESOME.

(I'll always remember you fondly, you little clickable scroll-wheel)
posted by Annika Cicada at 4:05 PM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Lot of smart people in Waterloo; you got to think that collective brainpower could be put to use doing something more interesting than making phones.
posted by pravit at 4:08 PM on September 23, 2013


Well, crikey. One of my favorite family members works somewhere in the middle if that org, if there's change, I hope it's for the better.
posted by childofTethys at 4:09 PM on September 23, 2013


I hope QNX is going to be rescued.
posted by PenDevil at 4:09 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


> Fairfax isn't a Private Equity firm.

My error -- I saw "private" while skimming news reports and leapt to conclusions. Sorry for misleading.
posted by ardgedee at 4:17 PM on September 23, 2013


Good fucking riddance.

They did some nice stuff at first, but they've fallen stupidly behind the times. I've seen tech-savvy people spend an entire day upgrading the OS on a BB9 device, mostly because you need to track down the right updates for your telco and model and whatnot.

And their big advantage, BB Messenger? Yeah, if you think exposing users directly to a "PIN" that's a 8-digit fucking string of hexadecimal is a good way for people to exchange personal contact information, you should go back to, I wanted to say the seventies, but really, no one has ever thought that was a good idea, apart from RIMM.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:17 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain to me, what's the $4.7 billion of value that's left in Blackberry at this point? Is it patents? Betting on it to suddenly pull out of the death spiral seems awfully unlikely.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:19 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


In a cost-cutting move, they recently changed the company name from RIM to Blackberry to stem the tide of pranksters calling their HR department to inquire about RIM jobs.
posted by dr_dank at 4:24 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sure RIM made lots of mistakes but the 'smartphone' market seems to be driven by the same monopolistic imperatives as the 'personal computer' market was. when everyone is trying to get a monopoly there are going to be losers.

think about how different pc's would be without microsoft, then look at what is happening with smartphones.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:26 PM on September 23, 2013


Horace Rumpole: "Can someone explain to me, what's the $4.7 billion of value that's left in Blackberry at this point? Is it patents? Betting on it to suddenly pull out of the death spiral seems awfully unlikely"

They have 2.82B dollars in cash, so that's a pretty big part of it. A lot of the rest is probably patents, and also product stock. And whatever's left after that is the real valuation of the company. It's a big company which employs a lot of smart people, so it's not exactly worthless.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:29 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


RIM made the same mistake that so many others have. If you cut prices to gain users, you will eventually drop into the death spiral when you've sold to all of your actual customer base.

Imagine each BB cost $10. What RIM did was, when it started to take off, cut it to $8, then when it was flying high, to $6. Then they hit the peak -- they already had most of the natural customer base. So, the response? They cut it to $4, and picked up a few dregs. When they cut it to $2, nobody was buying.

So, instead of making $10+$10+10, they made $10+$8+6, plus a few fours and twos. And when that last cut didn't keep the sales rate relevant, they plummeted, and didn't have the cash to invest in R&D to make a phone that would attract full price buyers again. So, they stuck with the keyboards, when it was clear that touch screens were winning. And by the time they realized that, they had no reserves to build solid touchscreen devices quickly. By the time they did (I've heard the Q10 isn't bad) they were irrelevant.

People may recognize this as the fate of Apple through 1999. What Apple has done since then is simple. You don't cut the price of the top tier stock, period. You eventually move it to the 2nd tier, then the 3rd tier, then sunset, but you never try to hook your early and middle adopters with low cost, because they're willing to pay full cost. The low cost users? Well, why do you think the current low-end iPhone is now the iPhone 4S? By that time, the device is cheap to make, so selling it at the lower price point is still profitable, and the much more costly to make new shiny is still selling at that high price point.

End result: Apple makes money quarter after quarter. So does Samsung, for the same reason. The Galaxy S5 may be many things, but it *won't* be any cheaper than the Galaxy S3 was when it was brand new. The cheap phone for Samsung will be the Galaxy S3, but only after it was the top of the line phone for 18 months, and then the mid line device for another 18. Basically, Apple and Samsung only sell the phones for cheap after they become cheap to make and they've sold enough of them expensively, and they make damn sure that there is a better, but more expensive device out there to be the shiny. What was the hotness in 2010 is the "well, you can run the current stuff, but there's better" in 2013. Instead of trying to make the top of the line cheaper -- and thus cutting the price of the whole stack -- they make the top of the line better, hold the price up, and let devices cascade down as the cheaper options.

RIM went for cheap. It killed them, as it's killed pretty much everyone who's tried it. Cutting prices is like trading mileage for performance in a race. You start out fast, build up a lead, then run out of gas and get passed by everyone else.

Aside: This is why only silly people thought the "c" in the iPhone 5c would mean "cheap." Apple did cheap. Apple basically died doing cheap. Apple (and, to be fair, Samsung) have given up on cheap and are aiming for "better", and that's why they're making money.
posted by eriko at 4:29 PM on September 23, 2013 [33 favorites]


Someone on Slashdot did the numbers:

"Looking at the balance sheet, there's about $2.8BN in cash, $900MM in inventory (figure that's basically zero now), and payables exceed receivables by about $1BN, so you're looking at a liquidation value of around $2BN. There's $2.2BN in property/plant/equipment, but it's highly unlikely you could actually get $2.2BN for that."
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:31 PM on September 23, 2013


Three years ago I worked on an app so that users could connect to my company's data tool using their phones. It was a breeze producing something for the Android platform. Building the app for iOS was complicated. Understanding the licenses and certificates for submitting the app was complicated, and we had to make some silly changes to meet App Store standards, but we managed to get our app into the store after a few tries.

When it came time to build the app fro RiM devices it was a complete nightmare. The emulator would crash and had to be uninstalled and reinstalled to function again. I've never encountered tools that seemed to be built with such incompetence. After a week of getting nearly nowhere I contacted a professional app developer friend to see if it was just me. He told me not to bother and that the software was rotten all the way through. His company abandoned developing for RiM devices after just one release.

Any company that treats its 3rd party developers with such disregard is destined for doom.
posted by Alison at 4:33 PM on September 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


but the 'smartphone' market seems to be driven by the same monopolistic imperatives as the 'personal computer' market was. when everyone is trying to get a monopoly there are going to be losers.

Companies can lose market share even without anticompetitive monopolistic practices.
posted by aubilenon at 4:37 PM on September 23, 2013


I am one of the remaining blackberry users...I will hold on until the end. And it's not a q10 or z10! I refuse to sign a new phone contract so I will keep on keeping on.
posted by bquarters at 4:51 PM on September 23, 2013


I will hold on until the end. And it's not a q10 or z10! I refuse to sign a new phone contract so I will keep on keeping on.

Even Walt left his New Hampshire cabin.
posted by anothermug at 4:56 PM on September 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


They should have diversified into label printers. Whenever I think of a Blackberry, I think of a label printer. Niche market, but it's there. Get on it Blackberry.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:04 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure RIM made lots of mistakes but the 'smartphone' market seems to be driven by the same monopolistic imperatives as the 'personal computer' market was. when everyone is trying to get a monopoly there are going to be losers.

Regardless, sometimes elephants can dance. RIM just happened to be the three-letter pachyderm that couldn't.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:05 PM on September 23, 2013


From the What's really wrong with BlackBerry (and what to do about it) link

The symptoms to watch closely are small declines in two metrics: the rate of growth of sales, and gross profit per unit sold (gross margins).

Say what now?
posted by mattoxic at 5:09 PM on September 23, 2013


Lololo Fairfax isn't putting any money into the deal. Just rolling their 10% holding into the new structure while depending on the other consortium members to buy the remaining. 90% But yet the consortium members haven't been announced? Starting to sound a little silly.
posted by JPD at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2013


It's actually pretty good article
posted by mattoxic at 5:11 PM on September 23, 2013


As a Waterloo resident I find all this quite sad and a little bit scary. Lots of friends and neighbors are going to be hit by this.

I'm generally satisfied with my Bold (never shopped around, in order to support the home team) but I have never owned any other brand of phone. Sounds like that will change.
posted by hearthpig at 5:17 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any company that treats its 3rd party developers with such disregard is destined for doom.

Except, apparently, Facebook.
posted by weston at 5:20 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It was a fascinating fiery free fall for them. I'm kind of impressed they lasted this long.

They no doubt have good people but the constant gurgling stench of poor management is just stunning. When they finally got a new CEO, and the very first thing he said was "We need better marketing" . . .

It was as if an alternate universe Ballmer was allowed to fail. Loudly. Arrogantly.

This $500 Playbook doesn't have email?! . . . No, f**k you.
posted by petebest at 5:21 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


My office bought Z10s and Q10s to replace the old BBs, and I have to say that my Z10--except for its mindbogglingly pathetic battery life--is pretty sweet. As someone upthread mentioned, the flicking of words (which it predicts pretty well according to context) is a great touch, and the onscreen typing is a bajillion times better than on the old physical keyboard.

That said, as a longtime iPhone user, I wouldn't switch to make it my main personal smartphone. It does what I need it to do for work, but I don't think it has the apps or usability for the rest of my time.
posted by the sobsister at 5:22 PM on September 23, 2013


I seriously think that if they had been even 6 months earlier with OS10 things would have gone much better for them. It was around that time that masses of long-time Blackberry users were finally getting fed up with their old phones that had no reasonable replacement yet and broke down and switched platforms. That left them locked into another year and a half (or two and half in Canada?) of a contract, leaving who exactly to buy the new devices?

Obviously, it would have been even better if they had gotten OS10 out the door two or three years ago, but even 6 months before they did would have sufficed.

As for their plan to focus on corporate users, it's not a bad idea. To this day nobody has produced a phone that does email as well as a Blackberry from 10 years ago. Many try, all have failed. There is still a core market there.
posted by wierdo at 5:23 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Blackberry is not their sole product unfortunately. This all puts the future of QNX up in the air as well.

Ya, I used QNX a bit, and I thought it was positively brilliant. The way an OS should be. I'm not a software/OS person though...

When it came time to build the app fro RiM devices it was a complete nightmare. The emulator would crash and had to be uninstalled and reinstalled to function again. I've never encountered tools that seemed to be built with such incompetence.

That doesn't look very good on QNX. Heh..
posted by Chuckles at 5:52 PM on September 23, 2013


People's minds had already been made up and they weren't willing to give Blackberry a second chance.

I'm not sure it was consumers just refusing to give BB a chance. The value proposition just wasn't there, compared to other options: Android-based phones especially.

Smartphones are increasingly not just devices, bought based on features and price, but platforms where a significant amount of the value is in the availability of applications. Blackberry did fine on the device side of the coin -- their phones had pretty nice hardware spit-and-polish, lots of people loved the hardware keyboards, they had a good range of out-of-the-box features (BBM, enterprise stuff, etc.) -- but they never got a good app ecosystem working.

It may be that the smartphone market, when viewed as platforms, is only stable as a sort of duopoly. Right now, that duopoly is Google/Android and Apple/iOS. This mirrors other platform duopolies: Mac/PC for desktop computers, the long period of Playstation/XBox game consoles (pre-Wii; which is an example of an also-ran making themselves relevant again through market expansion), etc.

Given that Nokia and Microsoft seem to have failed utterly in the smartphone space, I don't know how much blame RIM/BB really deserves. They gave away a stunning advantage, but so did Nokia. So did Motorola, although their lead was much earlier. Although there may have been some management mistakes at RIM/BB, it's hard to imagine a realistic scenario where things went much differently: they would have had to take a huge bet on smartphones at a time when they were still sitting pretty in their core market -- they probably would have seemed crazy rather than prescient. Moreover, they could easily have gambled the company and still lost everything including their existing customers if the product wasn't perfect, and died that much sooner.

I'm not sure they're going to even get the honor of being a famous failure (outside of Canada, anyway); the reality of the modern economy is that it creates more losers than winners, at least in terms of businesses. Those companies that succeed do so by climbing up and over a hill of bodies, any of which could have been them on a different day.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:55 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I seriously think that if they had been even 6 months earlier with OS10 things would have gone much better for them. It was around that time that masses of long-time Blackberry users were finally getting fed up with their old phones that had no reasonable replacement yet and broke down and switched platforms.

Substitute "WebOS" for "OS10" and "Palm" for "BlackBerry" and that's my history. Got tired of the pixelicious icons and general clunkiness of the Treo, and was generally wary of Palm (a few months before I gave up on it, my Treo stopped syncing, which is a bit of a problem), and drank the kool-aid after being a Palm user for a full decade, and have never looked back.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:56 PM on September 23, 2013


I am part of the problem. I had generations of blackberries for years and I just got rid of my last one a month ago. I was so worried that I'd never be a fast typing on a screen as I was on that keyboard. I'm still not AS fast, but close enough. It definitely did some things better, but not enough things, and almost nothing that can't be replicated with some app or other add on on my new android phone.

Sorry, RIM.

Can I tell you about the battery on my Droid Maxx? Huh? Want to hear about my shiny phone?
posted by gingerbeer at 5:57 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once BB is gone, virtually every smartphone in the world will be running software originating from the U.S.A.

That's got to make some creepy folks very, very happy.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:07 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I will hold on until the end. And it's not a q10 or z10! I refuse to sign a new phone contract so I will keep on keeping on.



Del Gue: Which way you headed, Jeremiah?

Jeremiah Johnson: Canada, maybe. I hear there is land there a man has never seen.

Del Gue: Well, keep your nose in the wind, and your eyes along the skyline.

Jeremiah Johnson: I will do that, Del Gue.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:27 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This new makes me sad because I love my blackberry with its little keyboard - what will I do in the touchscreen-only future? My fingers are just too clumsy.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:33 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope QNX is going to be rescued.

The old CEO said a few years ago that he would be willing to take the company solo again.

My biggest fear is that as part of overhauling the company they hang on to the QNX technology and people but stop selling it as an independent OS. My second biggest fear is that Cisco (or some other big user) buys the QNX division and stops selling it as an independent OS.

There are a lot of embedded systems people dreading the need to swap out their OS. Needless to say I'm one of them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:46 PM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember reading a wired article about Android before it was even close to being released that claimed its goal wasnt to kill apple, but to kill nokia and blackberry in one swoop and I was like "I'll believe it when I see it Wired hyperbolists!" Welo...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:51 PM on September 23, 2013


Well good because Research in Motion is a terrible name for anything.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 7:04 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


the onscreen typing is a bajillion times better than on the old physical keyboard

What!?

The physical keyboard is the one reason I am still wistful about my old QWERTY BlackBerry. "Typing" on glass sucks. I can rarely get through a single sentence without typos. I have been thinking about ditching my Galaxy Nexus and going back to a dumbphone just so I can have a text messaging device I can type on without embarrassing myself.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:23 PM on September 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blackberry will be harvested by a private equity firm for US $4.7 billion

Whew! that was close.

Since, as we all know, you have to pick blackberries before Michelmas (Sept. 29) because after that, the devil has spat upon them (shat, in the older traditions).
posted by jamjam at 7:37 PM on September 23, 2013


Mars Saxman,

I do not have thick fingers or chubby fingertips, but I felt like a tapdancing elephant on the BB's keyboard. On the rare occasions, I entered the password correctly on the first try, I felt I should go out and buy a lottery ticket because it was assuredly my lucky day.

As soon as I tried the Z10's touchscreen keyboard (did I mention the flicking words?), I waved bye-bye to the QWERTY keyboard and can't imagine going back to a physical keyboard unless it's as large as the one to my iMac.
posted by the sobsister at 8:06 PM on September 23, 2013


It's interesting seeing this happening from inside Kitchener-Waterloo - the BlackBerry turmoil is now a major topic of conversation and most everyone knows someone who works (or worked) there. There's a lot of BlackBerry boosterism, and definitely fear of the effect of the layoffs. On the other hand, there's a diverse local tech scene that is rapidly growing and which is pretty eager to get at BlackBerry employees. (Honestly, the 4500 in BlackBerry layoffs feels like maybe less of a blow than the impending closure of the Schneider Foods plant with its loss of 1200 "for-life" manufacturing jobs.)

It feels like a given that many of those laid off by BlackBerry will eventually find a place in the local tech industry. But nobody really talks about the geography of the layoffs. BlackBerry is based at a sprawling suburban campus next to the University of Waterloo, with some buildings scattered elsewhere and a brand new campus at the edge of town (this was probably not a good strategy). Meanwhile, many of the new tech companies are preferring the brick-and-beam loft offices and walkable amenities in downtown Kitchener (the adjoining twin city) over the office and industrial parks that Waterloo offers, so this may well mean a geographic shift in jobs. With BlackBerry winding down, a huge amount of real estate and office space will be available, but not where graduating start-ups want to locate. It'll be very interesting to see whether the land even remains as an employment use.
posted by parudox at 8:08 PM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Right now I am waiting for my Q10 to arrive. I had a Galaxy S3 for three months, but the keyboard drove me nuts. I need buttons. Real buttons. I've been using my old BB torch while I wait and my god it is so much better for me.

Also, I missed the OS. Android was fine, but somehow Blackberry and I have a mind-meld where they know how I think. The few Droid only apps I use I can side load.

Physical keyboard forever, so I hope Blackberry continues.
posted by right_then at 8:11 PM on September 23, 2013


In a perfect world this would mean that RIMM (or BlackBerry) licenses it's keyboard patents out to everyone, and the world will be blessed with incredible BB keyboards on 3rd party phones .
posted by el io at 8:14 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


QNX is growing and is used in quite a few car entertainment systems. It is installed in more than 30 million cars (in addition to Cisco routers and GE jet engines).

QNX will survive.
posted by eye of newt at 8:48 PM on September 23, 2013


I actually feel kind of bad for blackberry. They made a really good device for its time, didn't treat their customers like shit, had good support, etc. They just completely and utterly failed to see the next thing coming and now they're gone.

If I were running Blackberry, i'd dump their hardware platform and just work on selling secure email and locked down android devices to the corporate market.
posted by empath at 9:30 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


QNX is awesome and every developer should take a look at it. AFAIK, i does things a lot differently than the Posix-style OSes (Linuxes, BSDs, OS X) and the various Microsoft OSes. Different priorities and demands in a hard(?) Real-time OS = a lot of neat ideas.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:53 PM on September 23, 2013


Is the BBM system compromised by the NSA or other spy agency? If it is actually private, I'll bet there is huge pressure to sell out I note that the CEO class is bailing out as billionaires and multi-millionaires.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is the BBM system compromised by the NSA or other spy agency?

Of course they are. You don't get to be the president's email provider and not do what the NSA tell syou.
posted by empath at 10:24 PM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember reading about RIM's engineers responding to Apple's advance word on the iPhone being not "wow, that's some good engineering" but rather to assume, and reassure the C-levels, that Apple was lying and that the iPhone was fictional because RIM's engineers couldn't figure out how it could work. Institutional arrogance writ large.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:43 PM on September 23, 2013


Is the BBM system compromised by the NSA or other spy agency?

You'd think so, but the police in the UK were completely stumped by it during the 2011 riots.
posted by jack_mo at 10:46 PM on September 23, 2013


Okay, my Blackberry story.... Being a manager of a large multi-national meant we all received Blackberrys. Solid and secure they were. However the thing that really got me was the process you had to go through to update the apps. If you were desperate enough to update say the Twitter app, downloading seemed to take ages (once you remembered your app store password), installing even longer but the kicker was, you then needed to reboot the device! Just to update an app. And Blackberrys do take a while to re-boot, I can tell you. The whole process could take 7-10 minutes, to update an app. Perhaps it was the organisation's implementation, I don't know, but I couldn't for the life of me work out why you would ever want to update an app on a Blackberry.

Anyway, the organisation has abandoned Blackberrys and it is now all BYOD.
posted by vac2003 at 11:52 PM on September 23, 2013


The long boot times are the price of actual security. Needing to reboot the phone to install or update many apps is not. Slow downloads on the other hand, presuming they were 3G devices and the network wasn't the issue, have entirely to do with your administrator requiring all data usage go through the corporate network.

My SO's company had their BB infrastructure set up that way until they started allowing BYOD iPhone and Android devices. To a large degree, it was relaxation of the BB security policy to match the maximum possible security on the other platforms, but even still the BBs are more locked down for whatever reason.

One thing I really don't like about BYOD is that it makes it less obvious that the company can and will use their device management software to inspect the contents of your phone. To my mind it's perfectly legitimate for companies to do whatever they like with their owned hardware, at least as far as it doesn't involve webcam/microphone monitoring or something. I find it less appealing that the boss now has their tentacles in people's personally owned devices.
posted by wierdo at 12:06 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blackberry Devs, We're Going to Keep On Loving You (from a while back, so this promise has met its expiration date)...
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:45 AM on September 24, 2013


Is the BBM system compromised by the NSA or other spy agency?

Well, considering that they'll give backdoor access to anyone that asks nicely, I doubt there's anything that the NSA doesn't have access to.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:42 AM on September 24, 2013


Blackberry has been great at synchronization, and may have valuable patents that would justify the price.
posted by theora55 at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2013


Well, considering that they'll give backdoor access to anyone that asks nicely, I doubt there's anything that the NSA doesn't have access to.

That's not a fair characterization. At the same time India, a huge market, was making these demands, various autocratic Gulf states were making similar demands, and Blackberry fought a long, hard fight.

On another note, BBM played a leading role in helping organize the London riots of a few years ago, because it was encrypted.

With Blackberry, a Canadian company, at least you had a fighting chance at remaining secure.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 AM on September 24, 2013


"They should have diversified into label printers. Whenever I think of a Blackberry, I think of a label printer. Niche market, but it's there. Get on it Blackberry.


posted by turbid dahlia at 5:04 PM on September 23 [+] [!]"


Huh? I think you're thinking of Brother, or maybe Dymo. I think that market is pretty well cornered...
posted by stenseng at 11:20 AM on September 24, 2013


When I was working IT my last company we did a BYOD that I quite liked which was we'd pay up to $30 of your data plan.

For the most part it was just for Exchange based Email/Calendars.

We had a total of 2 BB users and had a dedicated BB server install that was a pain in the ass to configure and service. Luckily both of those users switched to iPhone/Android once their contracts went up. From that I learned that BB Enterprise probably didn't win any hearts with the IT / SysAdmin crowd either.
posted by wcfields at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2013


Heh, I actually prefer BES to using ActiveSync for device management, at least up through Exchange 2007. Plus, ActiveSync is a complete non-starter in many organizations with strict compliance requirements, so you end up having to use Good or another third party solution anyway.

I've been led to believe that newer releases of Exchange fix some of the problems, but AFAIK there's still no way to enforce the use of encrypted storage on the device. You can set the policy, but devices are free to ignore it (and often do). The only workaround is to whitelist individual devices, which is obviously a not an option if you have more than a few users.
posted by wierdo at 4:19 PM on September 24, 2013


Meanwhile, today Google announced a brand new Motorola Kitchener-Waterloo office (located in downtown Kitchener). Reading between the lines, it's pretty clear they're after many of the BlackBerry employees.
posted by parudox at 2:57 PM on September 25, 2013


If I knew the following article was going to be published this weekend, I would have delayed posting to make it the subject of the FPP: How Blackberry Blew It in the Toronto Globe & Mail. Must-read -- it's better than any of the links at the top of the page.

> “The problem wasn’t that we stopped listening to customers,” said one former RIM insider. “We believed we knew better what customers needed long term than they did. Consumers would say, ‘I want a faster browser.’ We might say, ‘You might think you want a faster browser, but you don’t want to pay overage on your bill.’ ‘Well, I want a super big very responsive touchscreen.’ ‘Well, you might think you want that, but you don’t want your phone to die at 2 p.m.’ “We would say, ‘We know better, and they’ll eventually figure it out.’ ”
posted by ardgedee at 1:39 PM on September 28, 2013


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