Certainly doesn’t sound like the absolute worst device is the world, but certainly nothing that will save BlackBerry. A solid C-/D+. 

I’m perplexed by the design choice here. Yes, it’s the shape of a passport, but why is that a good thing? No one types on their passport. No one reads things on their passport. It looks as if BlackBerry made it different simply for the sake of being different.

Yes, it sounds like the large, square screen makes it mildly easier to read email and documents. But the shape also makes it harder to type, negating any positives of the screen. And it’s arguably net negative given BlackBerry users love of their keyboards. 

I would have gone the other way — either way. I would have either made a device that’s the ultimate one-handed use machine (especially since Apple is going in the other direction with the iPhone 6/6 Plus). Or made the thing bigger, with the best physical “thumb” keyboard on a phone ever.

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. 

Todd Spangler:

BlackBerry, the struggling mobile device maker, filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Typo Products, the startup co-founded by Ryan Seacrest that has developed a smartphone keyboard attachment.

You cannot make this stuff up.

BlackBerry’s comment on the matter:

“From the beginning, BlackBerry has always focused on offering an exceptional typing experience that combines a great design with ergonomic excellence. We are flattered by the desire to graft our keyboard onto other smartphones, but we will not tolerate such activity without fair compensation for using our intellectual property and our technological innovations.”

In other words, BlackBerry wants to get paid. By Ryan Seacrest. Finally, a new business model.

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.

In other news indicating just how doomed Apple is, BlackBerry has signed a letter of intent to be acquired by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited for $4.7 billion. In other words, less than the revenue Apple made from selling iPhones over the weekend.

Man, that clog got cleaned up quickly over at BlackBerry. The flush went right down on the second try!

The rush is on to spin this into bad news in some way. Two possible angles:

1) It wasn’t quite double the weekend sales of the iPhone 5 last year!

2) In three days, Apple wasn’t quite able to triple the number of smartphones BlackBerry shipped — shipped, not sold — for the whole quarter!


Back in reality, 200 million devices updated to iOS 7 in just a few days is insane.

Update: And we have a winner — Sandy Cannold, arguing the old this-iPhone-isn’t-really-new-because-it’s-still-an-iPhone angle:

To me though, all this over-the-top fanfare and even the record-breaking first weekend of sales could actually be cause for concern. Now before Apple lovers pillory me and say that I have no idea what I am talking about, hear me out. I fully concede that Apple is going to make billions in profit from the sale of these new devices and the company is in no danger of becoming Blackberry or Nokia. But the reason I am voicing a bit of doubt is that it seems like Apple is now trying to squeeze every last bit of profit it can out of an aging, shall we call it, iStone.

Sandy, luckily you’re extremely lame puns distract from the fact that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

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.

Steve Kovach on BlackBerry’s just-announced preliminary Q2 2014 results:

BlackBerry just announced that it plans to cut 4,500 jobs.

It also said it only shipped 3.7 million smartphone last quarter, which is dismally low.

The company pre-announced earnings, saying it had a net operating loss of $995 million in Q2 this year.

BlackBerry says it will cut operating expenditures by 50% by 2015.

BlackBerry shares are tanking, down about 20%.

Someone just unclogged the drain at BlackBerry. It won’t be long now.

Next question.

Matthew Campbell & Aaron Kirchfeld reveal a few new details behind the Microsoft/Nokia deal:

Ballmer, who had initiated the talks, felt that Microsoft needed to own a branded consumer device, said a person with direct knowledge of the situation.

Which is why this is essentially the end of “Nokia” as a phone maker. Presumably, we’ll now get “Microsoft Lumias running Windows Phone” or some such. 

Also worth noting:

Meanwhile, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft is keeping an eye on BlackBerry Ltd., the people said. The Canadian manufacturer has said it’s seeking a buyer, and its strong presence in the enterprise market could still attract interest from Microsoft, they said.

Microsoft may yet get to figure out if -1 + -1 can be made to equal 2.

John Herrman:

BlackBerria exhibits all the classic signs of a collapsing country. Today, it’s the kind of place that might compel the State Department to issue a travel advisory. It’s a land where crime goes unpunished, where fires burn unextinguished, where citizens wander the streets alive but dazed, where the future is too foggy to inspire any feeling but despondency.

BlackBerria is officially up for sale, and will be sold from a position of weakness — its suitors will look more like the World Bank than casual bond buyers. Meanwhile, its crisis-time leader, whose public misjudgments are excruciatingly well documented but who is flattered by his monstrous predecessors, stands to become fabulously rich as the result of his country’s full failure. (BlackBerria’s deposed former leaders, for all their failures, are among the richest men in the region.)

Something very rotten in the state of BlackBerria.

We saw virtually no demand for the Q10 and eventually returned most to our equipment vendor.

Chris Jourdan, an owner of sixteen Wireless Zone stores in the Midwest (which sells Verizon Wireless products). Even worse: “the handful that sold were returned.”

The entire report is so damning that it’s just pretty sad for BlackBerry at this point. But I can’t help but think back to all those folks who insisted that the iPhone needed a physical keyboard or it was doomed. Doomed.

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.