Liam Tung on the square — yes, square — BlackBerry Passport:

According to BlackBerry, the smartphone world has been enslaved by the rectangle for too long, which may be “limiting innovations”.

BlackBerry argues that the Passport’s girth will deliver a better viewing experience, in part because it can display 60 characters per line — much closer to the 66 characters typically seen in a book, compared to the 40 or so on rectangular devices.

One advantage of its width is that users won’t need to turn the phone to landscape mode to view e-books, view documents, or browse the web.

Let’s be clear: if this thing works at all, it will be because of the physical keyboard that many old school users still clamor for, and not because of a square screen. Though I do love the assertion that it’s too hard for regular smartphone users to turn their phones to the side — where they’d get a much wider display area than this square screen will offer. 

Arik Hesseldahl on the never-ending nightmare that is BlackBerry:

As of 9:20 am ET, BlackBerry shares were trading at $6.48, down by $1.29. At that price, BlackBerry’s market capitalization will be about $3.4 billion when the markets open for formal trading later this morning.

That would be only $1 billion-and-change more than the combined cash and short-term investments it said it had on hand when it reported its latest quarterly results in September. If it were to fall much further, it would be trading at levels near or possibly below the value of its cash holdings, which would imply that the marketplace considers the company essentially worthless.

What a colossal shitshow. And while I enjoy all the “upbeat” talk out of the company after installing former Sybase CEO John Chen at the top, he’s clearly there to do one job — the job Thorstein Heins could not do — sell this sucker.

Timothy B. Lee:

BlackBerry eventually realized that it would need to compete effectively in the consumer market if it wanted to survive. But building consumer-friendly mobile devices wasn’t its engineers’ strong suit. And by the time BlackBerry released a modern touchscreen phone in 2010, three years after the iPhone came on the market, it had a huge deficit to make up.

While Microsoft was just far too late to the market (though you can argue they shouldn’t have been given the relative success of Windows Mobile), BlackBerry was right in the thick of it as a leader in smartphones when the iPhone hit. And they still couldn’t use that strong market position to figure it out until it was too late.

Yet another case of a strong market position actually being a weakness because it blinds and/or binds you.

Vauhini Vara:

Shares in the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones peaked in August of 2007, at two hundred and thirty-six dollars. In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware. Seven months earlier, in January, Apple had introduced the iPhone at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Executives at BlackBerry, then called Research in Motion, decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers that bought the devices for employees. “In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,” the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, “I would think that’s overstating it.”

Six years later, BlackBerry’s stock is worth just over ten dollars a share, and on Monday it announced that it has formed a “special committee” to explore ways to sell the company or form a joint venture with another business, among other options. This was a striking declaration: although BlackBerry has been in trouble for some time—it underwent a public “strategy review” of its business plan a year ago—its decision to put up a giant, blinking for-sale sign suggests it has become especially desperate. If BlackBerry sells itself, the buyer’s biggest gains will be a pile of cash, a big portfolio of patents, and some security technology. In other words, one of the companies that pioneered the smartphone market may soon end up selling itself as scrap.

$236-a-share to $10-a-share in six years. Crazy. Yet another tale of how quickly the mighty can fall — while seeming clueless the entire way down. And that’s not overstating it.

And now I’ll smugly link to my previous predictions just to add insult to injury.

Larry Dignan on BlackBerry’s Q1 miss:

Thorsten Heins, CEO of BlackBerry, tried to recast the company narrative around enterprise mobility management instead of devices.

And there was a good reason for that pitch from Heins. BlackBerry’s first quarter missed on multiple metrics as the company’s revenue and smartphone shipments failed to live up to expectations. What’s most worrisome for BlackBerry is that analysts were expecting a solid quarter based on channel fill.

They’re starting to concede the fate I laid out a year ago

Roger Chen for CNET:

A year ago, Balsillie was one of the largest individual shareholders in BlackBerry (formerly known as Research In Motion) with 26.8 million shares in the company. But in a document filed today, BlackBerry disclosed that Balsillie no longer holds any shares in the company.

While he formerly had a RIM job, no surprise that he took a dump here.

(I’m sorry, I’m 12, I know.)

The Official BlackBerry Blog:

We have an exciting new addition to Team BlackBerry. In a true collaboration, Alicia Keys is now an official partner to BlackBerry, acting as Global Creative Director. Working closely with app developers, content creators, retailers, carriers and entertainers, Keys will be an active member of the BlackBerry community.

The bullshit, it reeks of bullshit! Paying celebrities to take “jobs” seems to be the new celebrity endorsement. Yes, even RIM jobs.

But seriously, smart move to change the company name to “BlackBerry”. Most consumers probably already thought that was the company name. And those of us who did know the actual name have basically only used it in the context of the company slowly dying over the past few years (or, well, other contexts).

Ian Austen reporting on RIM CEO Thorsten Heins for The New York Times:

“Whenever you enter an office, you don’t have your laptop with you, you have your mobile computer power exactly here,” Mr. Heins said, patting a BlackBerry 10 phone sitting in a holster on his hip. “You will not carry a laptop within three to five years.”

While I largely agree with the overall sentiment, I’d still bet on RIM being a services company sometime in the same time-span — perhaps one owned by someone else. Also, it’s hard to take any of that seriously when you read that Heins has a BlackBerry “holster” on his hip. It makes the image at the top of the story pure gravy, as a result.

Jon Fingas:

Worried that RIM might face any further delays of BlackBerry 10? Don’t be. CEO Thorsten Heins just confirmed at his BlackBerry Jam presentation that carrier testing for the new OS should begin this October, and that the platform launch is still slated for early 2013.

Serious question: does RIM realize that I have an iPhone 5 in my hands right now? That it came out last Friday?

If Nokia looks bad shipping the new Lumias six weeks after the iPhone launch, RIM looks like an absolute joke shipping BlackBerry 10 six months after the iPhone launch.