Go Back to Go Forward: Blackberry’s Watershed Moment

by Matt Klassen on April 7, 2014

There’s no question that Blackberry is on the ropes, staggered by successive quarterly losses, a changing market, and a disinterested user base. But despite these blows the company seems optimistic about its future, with CEO John Chen noting he was pleased with Blackberry’s initial recovery during a recent earnings call. But what’s even stranger about Blackberry’s rose-coloured assessment is that there are some tech analysts who actually agree.

That’s not to say that these analysts think that Blackberry is a sure bet to recover its form in a market that has seemingly long past it by, but as E-Commerce Times writer Jeff Kagan writes, “I believe that if its leaders are alert — and if they can learn — the company can recover.”

In fact, Kagan notes that Blackberry faces a watershed “Coca-Cola” type moment, a pivotal time where the Waterloo company needs to realize that it has taken a wrong turn, needs to apologize for its poor decisions (like Blackberry 10), and needs to commit itself to returning to the crossroads and choosing the right path. The soft drink giant did it and was able to recover from a potential catastrophe, and perhaps the same hope exists for Blackberry.

For many of my readers over the age of thirty-five or so, perhaps I don’t need to remind you about the debacle that was New Coke, a reformulation of the soft drink company’s classic recipe that threatened to collapse the giant almost overnight. As the kids these days say, it was an epic fail, a monumental marketing disaster that really had only one way out: beg for forgiveness.

Having experienced a vehement backlash against this product change Coca-Cola initiated a much needed about-face, abandoning New Coke and returning to the classic recipe. The decision not only saved the company, but reestablished it as one of the most dominant and recognizable global brands.

As Kagan notes, Blackberry currently finds itself in a remarkably similar position, a once dominant company atop the smartphone sector that was unable to adapt to a rapidly evolving market. In a kneejerk reaction to its fading glory Blackberry hired a new CEO and rolled out its Hail Mary Blackberry 10 operating system…it was a colossal failure.

Having jettisoned that CEO the company brought in new boss John Chen, and if the company’s recent earnings call is any evidence of Chens’ plans, he may have stumbled upon the only road to recovery: go backwards, not forwards.

As Kagan writes, “To my way of looking at this situation, BB10 was a disaster. I have been saying since the beginning that the company should pull the new devices and go back to the old, faithful and successful design of BlackBerry 7. It would have to update the software and operating system and speed of the devices, of course, but if it did, I believe it could continue to win and grow.”

If such is the case the way forward for Blackberry is clearly defined: apologize like you’ve never apologized before for the creation of Blackberry 10 followed by the announcement that the new OS will be scuttled in favour of a return to Classic Coke…err.. I mean Blackberry 7 (with many essential updates and upgrades of course).

While I don’t quite share the optimism that Kagan exudes regarding Blackberry’s future should it embark on this rollback/apology journey, I have to say that looking at Blackberry’s current state such a gamble seems like the company’s only real road back to respectability. The only other choice seems to continue pushing forward towards its inevitable fate as the next Palm or Nokia.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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