Can Blackberry survive as a ‘niche company’?

Newly elected director thinks Blackberry will do fine, but there are “subsets” of the company that won’t survive.

blackberry sign 2938 Can Blackberry survive as a niche company?

Blackberry being broken up is something of a guaranteed thing, but company officials have been hard pressed to admit it.

That’s all changed now that Bert Nordberg, a newly elected director of the company, who sits on the firm’s board committee for exploring strategic alternatives, has broken this corporate silence by telling the Wall Street Journal that the future of Blackberry is as a “niche company” that will part ways with certain “subsets” of itself.

Nordberg didn’t specify what subsets of the company that might be, and danced around naming any particular parties that may be interested in buying company’s units should they be placed on sale.

Nordberg emphasized to the Journal that Blackberry needs to address the disparity between its paper-value and Wall Street asses it at.

“If you look at BlackBerry’s book value versus its market value, it’s clear that there’s lots of work to do,” he said to the Journal. “BlackBerry is strong on the enterprise business, its products are NSA-proof in the sense that you can’t intercept their communication, its handsets’ keyboards have many fans around the globe, and the company has a leading worldwide data network.”

Nordberg comes to Blackberry with a wealth of experience from the smartphone sector. As CEO of Sony Ericsson he re-engineered the firm, selling Ericsson’s stake back to Sony and moving the company to only focus on Android phones. Now, Sony’s smartphone division is one of its best performing units.

In some ways, what Nordberg is suggesting harkens back to the plan Silicon Valley investor Robin Chan pitched to Blackberry (then RIM) in 2012 as part of his plan to take the company private.

From our earlier coverage:

Chan’s plan was radical: it would involve completely abandoning the Blackberry OS in favor of a heavily modified version of Android, slimming down the device portfolio and offering RIM’s services on iOS and Android devices.

In the end Chan’s herd of investors was $5-billion short of the $6-billion required to buy the company at a slight premium for shareholders. While Chan’s group pitched the idea to RIM’s management and board, neither Chan nor anyone from the company has stated how the group was received. Chan did mention to The Verge that CEO Thorsten Heins was adamant that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the RIM during their meetings.

Though Chan’s plan didn’t work out, it looks as if it is living on in some form if Nordberg has his way. Blackberry, as Nordberg points out, has its strengths that have yet to be replicated by other vendors — like security — and has the trust of the enterprise community. These are ingredients of success. Let’s see if Nordberg can be as effective as board member of Blackberry as he was CEO of Sony Ericsson.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Sam Reynolds is a Canadian technology journalist based in Taipei. His interest is the intersection between politics, business and technology.