About that open letter from BlackBerry

Decoding its message to customers, partners and fans . . . Wait, BlackBerry has fans?


Photo illustration by Stephen Gregory and Richard Redditt

This week, BlackBerry tried to assuage its dwindling customer base by publishing an open letter. Let’s read between the lines of the missive. Excerpts appear in bold:

To our valued customers, partners and fans . . .

That’s a curious word choice—“fans.” Are there really a lot of tweens out there with pics of CEO Thorsten Heins on their lunch boxes?

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry.

You mean the ones that—if headlines had sound effects—would be accompanied by a deflating balloon?

You’re probably wondering what they mean for you . . .

Mostly that we should have sold our RIM shares three years earlier.

We have one important message for you: You can continue to count on BlackBerry.

With this sentence, BlackBerry has officially entered the “Not Dead Yet” phase of its existence.

MORTICIAN: Bring out your dead!

BLACKBERRY: I don’t want to go in the cart.

SOCIETY: Oh, don’t be such a baby.

BLACKBERRY: I feel relevant . . . I feel relevant!

We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt-free.

We literally could not be in a better position from which to continue hemorrhaging money.

We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.

Wait, they’ve decided to make iPhones?

We are [launching BBM] for Android and iPhone. There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our rollout.

You read that right: Six million people are so committed to BBM that they typed their email addresses into a box. HOORAY, THE COMPANY IS SAVED! Apparently, BlackBerry is run by the same people who thought they were going steady with Marsha because she borrowed a pencil in homeroom.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone.

Factoid: BlackBerry is particularly unpopular with the segment of the population that is aware it is no longer 2007.

Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry . . .

Please ignore the fact that the same was once true of the post office, the fax, the telex, the telegram, smoke signals, weird bird symbols carved into stones and rudimentary, pre-human grunts and hair-pulling. And for the record, have there really been “countless” WORLD-CHANGING decisions made on a BlackBerry? Keep in mind that, technically speaking, the world was not changed by your decision to play Brick Breaker on the toilet.

. . . and for many of you, that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.

Pretty sure they’re trying to make me feel guilty for switching to Apple. I didn’t cheat on you, BlackBerry—WE WERE ON A BREAK.

BlackBerry is different.

Some carriers didn’t even want to stock our latest device. That’s pretty different. Your move, Apple.

We believe in BlackBerry—our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More important, we believe in you.

This sounds like a John Mayer lyric: We belieeeeeeve in yooooooooou! But what does it even mean? Let me take this opportunity to assure the people at BlackBerry—or at any company—that their belief in me is entirely misplaced. Each and every time, I will abandon you the moment one of your competitors produces a superior product. Just ask the nice folks who make Alphagetti. (You had a good run, guys, but a hippo? That trumps a capital M every day of the week. Zoodles FTW!)

You trust your BlackBerry to deliver your most important messages, so trust us when we deliver one of our own: You can continue to count on us.

And in return, here’s a message for BlackBerry: Allowing your company to grow complacent and expecting to thrive is like dating Taylor Swift and expecting not to be the focus of her next three albums.

Follow Scott Feschuk on Twitter @scottfeschuk

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About that open letter from BlackBerry

  1. Again Macleans does it’s best to shut down Blackberry. I have a Z10 and think it is a fantastic smart phone. I recommend it to everybody. Apple was in Bankruptcy and look what happened.
    I believe in Blackberry among 78 millions users.

    • The article is an attempt at humour, not trying to “shut down” BlackBerry. While I don’t doubt your sincerity when you say you’re happy with your Z10, recommending it to everybody is quite the statement.

      I know many iPhone users that would never switch simply because of features like iTunes, which is a very smart way for a company to ensure that a customer is tied to a particular brand, and a way that BB failed to capitalize on.

      Another reason is the type of apps, and I’m not simply talking about Angry Birds. There are many work-related apps such as Dropbox and AutoCAD 360 (two that I happen to use the most; there are many others for different professionals) that either a) don’t exist on a BB, b) pale in comparison to the features, ease of use, etc., of the same app on either Android or iPhone, or c) simply aren’t updated as often because BB users aren’t as numerous as iPhone users, so the app developer is less likely to waste resources updating the BB version.

      And that’s probably the biggest reason. The apps, if they exist on a BB, will likely get less updated than the same app for an iPhone, simply because the developer can’t be bothered to devote time updating a BB app used by so few people. Even if BB paid developers to make apps for their devices, they would have to continue paying them every year, just to update their apps.

      • Yeah iTunes, a program that single handedly changed the entire music industry, gee why didn’t blackberry just think of that?
        its just so easy…

        • It’s not about creating something revolutionary. It’s about creativity. I don’t expect BlackBerry to revolutionize anything. I simply expect it to be a little creative from time to time. And it hasn’t been very creative over the past 5 years. RIM came out with a revolutionary product many years ago, and then more-or-less hit the cruise-control button, letting others like Apple and Google do the innovating, while the owners were distracted with hockey teams. I mean, RIM at one point openly admitted that its OS makes it extremely difficult for software developers to make apps for the BB. Why? Why create an operating system that hinders the development of apps?

          • Their new OS is pretty creative.

          • …uh, yeah. you’re referring to RIM admitting that regarding their legacy OS. Build on Java stacks. Over 12 years ago. Meanwhile, any lay person with a web browser and a wifi connection can sideload 99% of all android apps without any development knowledge whatsoever onto bb10. check and mate.

      • Hilarious, using Dropbox as one of your examples – you do know Dropbox is pretty much built into the BB10 OS, right?

        • No, I had no idea that DropBox was integrated into the BB10 OS. Probably because BB did a poor job of advertising such a potentially great feature which could appeal to many people, including myself. BB marketing fail.

          • you need to decide whether you are here to debate the success/failure of BB’s marketing or their engineering department.

  2. I also have a Blackberry Z10. it’s great device and would also recommend it to everybody.
    I’ve spoken to a few people who really like their Blackberry devices and want to upgrade, but are ‘waiting to see what happens’. All of the negative publicity, most of it speculation, is making it difficult for Blackberry to sell phones. Pretty sad. I used to respect the editorial integrity at Macleans – not now

  3. I like my Playbook more than my ipad. Just not enough apps :(

    • Absolutely with you there. I like the feel and interface of my PlayBook a lot more than the iPad. The size of the PlayBook is far more convenient for me, and while it is heavier, I actually prefer that — it feels more solid.

      Of course, if I actually used it regularly, perhaps that weight preference would change but with the lack of decent applications available for it (and that it can’t connect cellularly on its own) that unfortunately doesn’t happen.

    • Honestly, 140,000 is not enough?

      • I didn’t think there was even a tenth that many, and I saw a lot of junk. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

        • you’re definitely doing it wrong. learn how to sideload.

  4. Scott, I’m trying to take your article with a grain of salt as 1) you write satire & 2) I’m a fan of your writing.
    That said, this is a bit distasteful from a fellow canuck.

    I like my BB smart phone. It does what I need it to do & without all the juvenile, cartoony & ‘addict’ personality of an iphone. The same could be said for Playbook-just the right size & it was the right price (anyone who bought an ipaid is a fool) & has enough of what I want for apps.
    Generally speaking, if one wants to feel superior because they can claim to have 300,000 apps at their disposal, half of which are games & a third complete garbage (simulated lighter??!) then that’s your issue.

    Finally, BB did it right with their BB10 interface which is where the true value lies. It is a very good pc of smart phone software but it’s jacka$$ comments like yours Scott that undermine that.

    • It’s distasteful because BB is Canadian, and we’re not allowed to critique anything Canadian?

      • Did I say that?
        When a company produces something (smart phone software) that is o’all as good as its competition & does some things better, it’s worth praise.

        This was not just another update but a make or break pivotal moment & Scott’s drivel, full of insults & demeaning sarcasm, was purely for the sake of trying to write a column at BB’s expense.

        Poor form-go BB.

        • Stating “distasteful from a fellow canuck” leaves the impression that nationality/pride in anything Canadian plays a role. Hence my question.
          BB produced smart phone software that is as good as its competition six years after its competition originally released its software. That’s not praiseworthy. That’s just playing catch-up, and it gave the competition 6 years to snatch up market share. Even then, it was only after many delays and embarrassments.
          You’re right that BB’s latest hardware & software releases are a make-or-break pivotal moment for the company. However, it comes across as too little, too late, and will likely do very little to revive its fortunes. Investors sense this, the company knows this, and they are now in the process of selling off the company as a result, possibly even breaking it up and selling it in separate pieces, like an old car being sold for scrap so it can be chopped up and its different parts can find new homes. It’s a sad, disappointing story of a once-mighty brand.
          As a family that has owned a BB Torch, BB Curve, iPhone 4, Samsung Infuse, and a Note 2, it’s in my opinion that the BlackBerry was the least-liked option out of all these phones, whether for work or play, and always felt that BB was trying to “catch up” with the other OS’s. BB’s failures are not surprising, after using a few of their handsets and comparing to both iOS and Android phones.

          • you’re comparing apples and oranges there. I used to work for a cell company, and at one point carried around an iPhone 4s, BB9900, and SGS2. which did I care for the most? the BB. even now, working for an energy company with a BYOD policy you know what I use? my Q10. and a corporate paid iPad. best combination ever. the problem isn’t one of marketing but that the majority of people in the market are simply too dull to make it past the qnx learning curve.

  5. …HAHAHAH, oh wait, not only is this article not funny, but neither are you.
    But I’m sure you laughed hard with yourself during the THREE days it took to write this article.

    • Wait, I was supposed to spend only THREE days on this?

      • well as im sure you know about comedy, timing is everything…
        I guess you were spending the week looking for the new Tim Cook lunch box that all the cool iOs kids have….

  6. What a crappy article.

  7. Love my Q10

  8. BB rested on their laurels in the early 2000s instead of innovating. Same for Palm and Nokia. Now they are all getting what has been coming to them for years now. Nobody is buying their devices, and for good reason, why buy a device that has very few apps? And a hardware keyboard?? C’mon guys… Talk about showing your age… BB is dead, they are just stubborn.

    • • Tactile keyboards rule-touchscreens are for sissy’s with girly hands
      • Q10 is great
      • Apple is fruity, & all that that implies
      • People who cannot live with ONLY 70,000 apps suffer from ADD

  9. I think the reason i don’t read McClean’s very often is because everytime i start to read something the SARCASM, ONE DIMENSIONAL VIEW, ANAL THOUGHTS, ANTI CANADIAN FEELING and the STUPIDITY of the writers is painful. This reminds me of the way my Band was treated by these same low life no life get a life #€%&#& €%/€%/
    W#€%%#€ €%&/€%&/ “#€%”#€ €#%&€#% “#€ “# €”#€ “#€% “#€ ” “#€%” # % “# € & “#€”#% #” “#%WW#e….
    I think there’s an opening for you somewhere in SIBERIA… IF ITS SO GREAT SOMEWHERE ELSE THEN WHY DONT YOU AND YOUR KIND JUST F€#%# O”#€%”#€


  10. This article should’ve had “Sent from my Blackberry handheld device” at the end…

    • it did. the editors took it out. :)

  11. I’ve got a 9 year old neice that can also type if you’re looking for more juvenile submissions such as this drivelous one.

  12. I love my blackberry. Apple is for teens and scensters who care more about style then being able to use it. amazing battery life, great camera, good music player, a use-able keyboard, and software that actually works for business users!

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