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The Future of BlackBerry - Will it be able to compete?
Where does the company formerly known as Research in Motion go from here? After being a staple of the smart phone industry, BlackBerry (BBRY) is currently facing the hardest challenge in its history; how will it be able to compete against the likes of industry giants, Apple (AAPL) and Google’s (GOOG) Android?
When Research in Motion started out, it began offering products, such as pagers before eventually making its way to phones. When the company employed the popular QWERTY keyboard for its phones, these devices tailored to the interests of business-savvy users. It produced software that was simple and easy to use, yet boasted advanced security and flexibility when it came to functions, such as email and instant messaging. Gaining popularity from business users as well as government officials, BlackBerry constructed its own niche in the smartphone world. That was until Apple released the iPhone. In 2010, Steve Jobs, shortly after the release of the iPhone, criticized Research in Motion for failing to adapt to an evolving industry, and said it would be hard for it to catch up now that it was so far behind. RIM stock eventually plummeted; in 2011 it dropped to its lowest point since 2004. The company announced layoffs and budget cuts. As RIM lost market share, Apple’s and Android’s gained on the market front. The BlackBerry handsets were no longer selling, despite businesses still favoring it, and the operating system (OS) was not built to support the use of applications, which slowly gained popularity.
In comes Thorsten Heins, a new CEO who, in January 2012, refocused the company’s image, and decided to spotlight the company’s business customers. While the stock continued its decline, efforts to release the new operating system, BlackBerry 10, increased. On January 30th, 2013, the company officially released its new operating system, along with two new handsets, the Z10 and the Q10, in Canada and Europe. While initial response was mostly positive, the stock had little to show for it. In fact, the shares fell shortly after the announcement. That said, international sales remain strong, and demand continues to improve, ahead of most of the U.S releases (T-Mobile began selling the Z10 recently), which is expected to be on March 22nd for the BlackBerry Z10 on AT&T (T - Free AT&T Stock Report), while the Q10 is expected a few months after.
BlackBerry’s focus on security and business-based clientele will continue to be its main selling point. Currently, companies such as Samsung are developing handsets with improved security to counter BlackBerry’s new offensive. This is a positive sign for the company, as it has initiated some fear in its competitors. Also, some of the more popular features of the phone such as BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) and the LED indicator light on the phones remain. The Q10 has a neat QWERTY keyboard to support its loyal customer base, as well.
As for the newly redesigned software, critics have been fairly positive about it, as its learning curve is easier than the new Microsoft (MSFT - Free Microsoft Stock Report) Windows mobile operating system, with better multitasking ability, while maintaining its strong security features. Although there may be a few bugs, the OS offers a new hope for this product as it looks to gain back some of the market share it has lost. BlackBerry still has its work cut out for it in terms of developing a library of applications as substantial as Apple’s AppStore or Android offerings. Currently, Apple and Android loyalists do not see any reason to switch to BlackBerry, and without a mass migration, the company will continue to play third-fiddle to these two companies. However, if BlackBerry focuses on a more global approach, it may gain some ground.
Time can only tell if BlackBerry has what it takes to be a real competitor in this industry, and, as we await for the launch of the Z10 and Q10 smart phones stateside, only then will we be able to see if the company can garner interest from new customers, aside from the loyalists, and corporate and government users who employ it currently. For a more detailed report, including analysis and forecasts on the companies listed above, subscribers should examine our full page reports in The Value Line Investment Survey.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.