BlackBerry is one of several mobile communications brands that enjoyed a brief moment in the sun before imploding in the wake of Samsung and Apple's global dominance of the sector. A pioneer in what later became known as smartphones, Canadian manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) arguably set the standard for mobile corporate communications during the early 2000s, and by mid-decade its BlackBerry handset had established itself as the preferred mobile device for business users. At its peak, BlackBerry had as much as 20% of the emerging global smartphone market. However, from 2009 onwards, that early lead was steadily undermined, first by Apple's more consumer-friendly iPhone, and then by the emergence of devices powered by Google's Android system. What was at first a slow decline in performance accelerated rapidly from 2011 onwards, making RIM's survival by no means certain. Experienced tech industry leader John Chen was parachuted in as chairman & CEO and engineered a slow turnaround. In 2013, the company announced plans to exit the consumer market in favour of business customers. Somehow it has struggled on since then, despite a continuing decline in customers. It stopped making mobile handsets altogether in 2016, licensing out those rights to Chinese company TCL Communication which has been marketing a small number of high-end devices under the BlackBerry Mobile banner, still primarily aimed at enterprise users. However that license is set to expire in 2020, and TCL has said it will stop selling devices under the BlackBerry name. BlackBerry itself now specialises in secure mobile communications infrastructure and software for large enterprises, and security software for "internet of things" devices. Brands include the BlackBerry Spark secure software platform, BlackBerry Cylance cybersecurity products and services (acquired in 2019), and BlackBerry QNX IoT software solutions, used primarily in autonomous or connected automobiles. Group revenues for the year to Feb 2020 were just over $1.0bn, the first year-on-year increase for a decade, but still far below the almost $20bn reported in ye 2011. IoT software and services accounted for more than half of revenues. The company reported a net loss of $152m. Chen remains executive chairman & CEO.
Capsule checked 14th July 2020
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Historical profile information for BlackBerry
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Mar 2017: Welcome to the return of the living dead! One of the most widely publicised takeaways from Mobile World Congress this week has been the relaunch of the Nokia mobile brand. This is not from Nokia itself, which now only makes network infrastructure; nor from Microsoft, which bought the Nokia handset business for billions and then effectively shuttered it last year at a cost of millions more. The maker this time is independent company HMD Global, which acquired the Nokia brand license and is now re-entering the market with a new line of smartphones. You'd hardly know about those, though, because the device that got all the media coverage is a revamp of the iconic Nokia 3310 "chocolate bar" handset, probably the first mobile phone owned by anyone over the age of 40. Such is the power of short-term nostalgia that the biggest hit of Nokia's relaunch is not those new smart devices but an updated dumbphone, that will be purchased "ironically" by a few retro hipsters and then dumped a month or two later. It doesn't even have 3G. But it does have that old chestnut, the "Snake" game, and a battery charge that lasts a month. Yeah, because it's only 2G. So no wi-fi either. We give new Nokia a year at best before it crashes and burns like its predecessor. And there's a new Blackberry device too. Like corporate Nokia, corporate Blackberry quit the device market after losing almost all its one-time Crackberry addicts. However that brand too was licensed by Chinese manufacturer TCL, which has unveiled its first device under the once-celebrated name, the Blackberry KeyOne. Good luck with that.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Dec 2016: The BlackBerry name is destined to continue on handsets following a deal between struggling BlackBerry Inc and Chinese manufacturer TCL Communication Technology. BlackBerry recently announced plans to stop manufacturing mobile devices in order to concentrate exclusively on software and security solutions. However it has agreed to license global rights for BlackBerry-branded devices to TCL for an undisclosed sum. The latter also has rights to the Alcatel brand on mobile devices, in addition to its own branded devices.
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Sep 2016: In an end-of-era moment, BlackBerry announced plans to suspend all development of mobile handsets, following another sharp decline in revenues for the latest quarter. It will instead focus its attention exclusively on software and solutions. Executive chairman John Chen said the company will license the BlackBerry name to third-party hardware manufacturers. It has agreed one such deal with a division of one of Indonesia's largest mobile providers, and hopes to make similar arrangements in China and India. Group revenues for the quarter to August slipped by almost a third to $334m, their lowest level since 2004. Revenues from outside North America more than halved, and a write-off against the company's remaining hardware inventory created a net loss of $372m. BlackBerry's current market cap is just $4bn, down from over $80bn at its peak in 2010.
Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd April 2015: BlackBerry reported another massive plunge in revenues, which more than halved for the year to Feb 2015 to just $3.34bn (from almost $20bn four years ago). However the group reported a small but unexpected profit for the final quarter, and would have reported a small surplus for the year as well if not for a large non-cash amortisation charge and accounting adjustments. Executive chairman John Chen reassured investors that the company was no longer in danger of collapse, and asked for patience over its recovery.
Adbrands Weekly Update 26th Jun 2014: BlackBerry reported a modest but unexpected profit for its first quarter, despite a steep fall in revenues. Earnings were $23m, a big improvement on last quarter's $423m loss. However, topline plunged by 69% against the year-ago quarter to $966m. Executive chairman John Chen credited a stringent cost-cutting programme for the improvement in earnings but warned shareholders that there is still a lot of work to do. The company sold around 2.6m phones in the period, of which almost two-thirds were BB10 devices. Although its popularity has virtually evaporated in the US and much of Western Europe, BlackBerry still has a strong following in emerging markets, especially in Asia.
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