Blackberry’s Fate? Why Not Ask the Customers?

Posted Saturday, November 2, 2013 in Online, Mobile & IT by Patricia Seybold

The company used to be called Research in Motion—familiarly known as RIM. But since most of us think of it as the company that makes Blackberries, the company changed its name to Blackberry. Blackberry is the mobile phone that won the hearts and minds of busy people all over the world—people who are addicted to email. My husband is a great case in point. He owns a Blackberry, an Android, and an iPhone. All have all the same functionality. All can answer calls to any of his numbers. But the one he panics if he doesn’t have? The Blackberry. Why? Because he’s addicted to email—both watching it arrive and making sure he doesn’t miss anything (which you can do on any phone), but also composing thoughtful emails and replies. Like Winston Churchill, he works from bed many early mornings—answering correspondence and sending out marching orders and learning and thinking about world events. The rest of the day, I often find him sitting in front of his computer, but typing on his Blackberry, not the computer. As he points out, the combination of a 2-thumb keyboard and a trackball for precise positioning of the cursor are pre-requisites for a high volume mobile email consumer and creator.Blackberry Bold

I too am currently a Blackberry user. I’m not happy about the downhill trajectory of the brand and the company. I rely on my workhorse Blackberry because I conduct most of my business and personal correspondence via email. And try as I might, I have yet to find another mobile phone that comes close to Blackberry’s productivity.

RIM, the maker of the Blackberry, is in financial difficulties, having lost $1 billion in the last 12 months. Rumors have been rife of RIM’s Board and management looking for an acquirer. Apparently, they have been talking with Facebook and Google. Some pundits think that Apple should buy them with its hoard of cash, and just take them off the market and out of the hands of competitors.

But what do RIM/Blackberry’s remaining customers want? What brand ownership would they feel comfortable with? Which company might actually appreciate the Blackberry’s brand promise: the best mobile phone for power email users with adequate security for business correspondence (pre-NSA disclosures). Maybe they should ask President Obama? He’s an avid Blackberry user.

What Would Customers Say? So, I took an informal poll, asking all the Blackberry users I know which company/brand they would most like to acquire RIM/Blackberry. Here were their top-of-mind criteria for success:

  1. Since RIM is a Canadian firm, they felt that the acquiring company should not be based in the US, but already have a strong US presence (for security and privacy reasons).
  2. It should be a brand that is trusted for excellent consumer as well as business customer support.
  3. It should be independent of mobile carriers, but really easy for all of them to do business with.
  4. It should have deep pockets and a sound international business strategy that could expand upon and leverage the loyal email-addicted power elite who prefer Blackberry’s productivity.

So, what brand/company fits this bill??

I received some surprising answers: Sony, Sharp, and Lenovo were top of mind. The other suggestion is that co-founder Mike Lazardis take the company private.

However, when asked to choose between Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon—all U.S.-based companies—many existing Blackberry customers would prefer Apple, just because of Apple’s famed customer service.

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