In an interesting PR move, beleaguered smartphone maker BlackBerry has posted an open letter to customers on social media and in 30 newspapers. The letter starts off by saying that BlackBerry has one important message for users – “You can continue to count on BlackBerry.” It then touts their debt-free balance sheet, their four BlackBerry 10 devices, and their enterprise BYOD software.
The letter comes during a particularly rocky time for the company. During their last earnings call, they reported a 45% drop in sales year-over-year, and a $943 million loss on unsold Z10 phones. The report was especially bleak since BlackBerry was hoping that the Z10 – their flagship product for the BlackBerry 10 operating system – would mark a turning point in their battle against iOS and Android devices. That didn’t happen, and the company has since announced they’ll lay off 40% of their staff. This chart from CNN Money shows how BlackBerry’s stock has performed over the last five years:
Since their last earnings report BlackBerry has been shopping itself around for a buyout offer. News broke last month that BlackBerry’s largest stakeholder Fairfax Financial would purchase the company for $4.7 billion (roughly $9 a share), but the company has since been unable to secure the necessary financing for such a deal. Google, Cisco, and SAP are also rumored to be interested, albeit only in pieces of the company, such as their patent library or enterprise device-management software.
Given all of the above, many expected BlackBerry to exit the consumer smartphone businesses altogether. That makes this open letter even stranger, as it touts the BlackBerry 10 OS as a “Best In Class Productivity Tool,” and highlights their BBM services’ expansion to Android and iOS devices. If the company is seeking to exit the consumer industry and focus solely on enterprise, this is certainly a mixed signal. If they’re trying to reassure their consumer base, it may be far too late. Of course BlackBerry may also just be trying to reassure corporate buyers, as it continues to seek an offer.