In BlackBerry's letter to customers, a stiff upper lip

In BlackBerry's letter to customers, a stiff upper lip

Summary: Funny how tech companies that won't say a word are suddenly full of them once trouble really strikes.

TOPICS: Mobility, BlackBerry
Photo illustration: Andrew Nusca

Have you seen BlackBerry's latest letter to its customers? It's a doozy.

In it, the company tries to defend its (increasingly untenable) position by talking itself up with only the slightest recognition of the significance of the company's problems. Instead of facing the truth head on, the Canadian company put out a restrained press release meant to satiate shareholders—not customers, as it proclaims.

Reading it is like watching Lance Armstrong admit his Tour de France doping to Oprah Winfrey: painful.

So let's take a look line by line, shall we? In italics, the company's original words; in bold, my "translation." Don't take it too literally—it's only Monday, after all.


To our valued customers, partners and fans,

To our extremely attractive, well-mannered and generous shareholders,

You’ve no doubt seen the headlines about BlackBerry. You’re probably wondering what they mean for you as one of the tens of millions of users who count on BlackBerry every single day.

We know you've seen the headlines. We know you know what they mean. We're writing this to convince you otherwise.

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

Unless we're sold. In which case, you can count on whoever buys us. (Maybe.)

How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free.

We may have stalled mid-air and are plummeting toward the Earth, but it's still a little ways away, OK?

We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organization.

If we put our arms out wide, the air resistance will help cushion our fall. (Oh, and we weren't customer-oriented before, by the way. Sorry about that. But now we are! Come back!)

These are no doubt challenging times for us and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.

We know it's bad, you guys.

One thing we will never change is our commitment to those of you who helped build BlackBerry into the most trusted tool for the world’s business professional.

We still love you, even though you walked away. (P.S. We still have a poster of you on our wall. We kiss it every night.)

And speaking of those dramatic headlines, it’s important that we set the record straight on a few things.

We really hate tech blogs. Like, really. They're the worst. They're all, "OMG Apple!" and "BB10: DOOMED" and "10 ways Google REALLY IS evil." Doesn't it get old?

Best in class productivity tool.

You know you love our physical keyboards. Just admit it.

We have completely revamped our device portfolio this year with the launch of BlackBerry 10. We have four BlackBerry 10 devices – two all touch and two hybrid (touch and QWERTY) – and all are running the third update of our new platform. If what you care about most is getting things done – taking care of your business – we have the best range of devices for you. And we continue to offer the best mobile typing experience – no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Did you know we have new phones? We have new phones. They're not as bad as the old ones. Really.

Best in class security.

Besides, you don't really trust Apple and Google, do you?

Governments all over the world, global corporations and businesses that simply cannot compromise on security choose and trust BlackBerry. Security is our heritage, and the industry recognizes that BlackBerry is the most secure when it comes to the device, server and, of course, our global data network. Have no doubt that you can continue to trust us to keep your communication safe and private.

Well, "chose," anyway. Except for the few of you who stuck around. You folks are the best.

Best in class enterprise mobility management.

Really, though: Apple? Google? COME ON.

We changed with the market, embracing BYOD because we understand that as iOS and Android devices become common in the workplace, businesses still need to manage all of these different platforms seamlessly and securely.

We've come to terms with the fact that you left us! Really!

This is not a trivial task. While there are a number of startup companies that make bold claims, BlackBerry has more software engineers and the most resources dedicated to developing the most innovative solutions to address this complex challenge.

Once we're done slashing our workforce for the umpteenth time, we'll still be bigger than your favorite startup. EAT IT, SILICON VALLEY.

And our customers know it. Over the past quarter, our BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 server base grew from 19,000 to more than 25,000. Corporate clients are committed to deploying and testing the latest enterprise technology from BlackBerry. We are committed to evolving with our customers. That will never change.

You may hate our handsets, but we know you don't really trust Apple and Google. Look! The numbers prove it!

Best in class mobile social network.

We can tweet! See? 'RT @BlackBerry: LFMAO.'

We are bringing the most engaging mobile messaging platform to all, with our BBM launch for Android and iPhone.

We cn txt 2. C? 'U THERE? J/K LOL.'

There are already around six million customers pre-registered to be notified of our roll out. This number is growing every day, and speaks to the tremendous opportunity we have to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network.

Face it: Yammer sucks.

Yes, there is a lot of competition out there and we know that BlackBerry is not for everyone. That’s OK. You have always known that BlackBerry is different, that BlackBerry can set you apart. Countless world-changing decisions have been finalized, deals closed and critical communications made via BlackBerry. And for many of you that created a bond, a connection that goes back more than a decade.

We're as rare as a fine Bordeaux. Own something that no one else has: BlackBerry!

We believe in BlackBerry – our people, our technology and our ability to adapt. More importantly, we believe in you. We focus every day on what it takes to make sure that you can take care of business.

But seriously, do you guys believe in us? Pretty please?

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.

'To read the rest of this message, please sign in to BBM with your BlackBerry ID. If you don't have a BlackBerry ID, you can create one now.'

The BlackBerry Team


In all seriousness, though, the company would do better proving its mettle instead of merely proclaiming it. There's just not enough time to do both.

Topics: Mobility, BlackBerry

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • They should have left out the part about having new phones. The market

    panned the new phones. They didn't sell. In fact when you say you have new phones I think yes, you do have new phones, you still have millions of them because you couldn't sucker anyone into buying them. Bet you wish you could have said we sold out of all our new phones.
    Johnny Vegas
  • Keep the Patents, Sell off the Board

    If I were a share holder, I would be pissed. The share holders should keep the patents and sell off the board. The patents still have value, but the board is worthless.

    +1 to the Board for running a great company with great technology into the ground. They probably gave themselves fat bonuses for a job well done.
  • Did they Hire Steven Elop to run RIM?

    like Nokia hired him, to run the company Into the ground?
    I hate trolls also
  • Yeah, actually, it does.

    "We really hate tech blogs. Like, really. They're the worst. They're all, "OMG Apple!" and "BB10: DOOMED" and "10 ways Google REALLY IS evil." Doesn't it get old?"

    Yeah, actually, it does. You guys beat a dead horse all the way down to hamburger declaring Microsoft dead back around the early 2000s (due to the belief that Linux was the next big desktop OS, I believe), and it never happened. Even if you predict the same thing over and over and over again several years in a row doesn't mean it's gonna happen.

    In the end, ZDNet basically lost all credibility. You guys are good for a laugh, but I don't take you seriously anymore.

    This article? Basically a cynical joke. I don't know what the future of Blackberry is, but I do know that ZDNet isn't the best place to figure out what it's likely to be.
  • Lay off Andrew

    Pretty mean spirited article, hate Blackberry much?

    Seriously, why would you do this? Kicking a company that gave the world smartphones while they are down is just wrong. Your hate is not appreciated!
    • Blackberry or RIM Did not Give Us the Smartphone

      They gave you a business class secured two way pager that eventually evolved into a smart phone after Palm beat them to it via Kyocery in February of 2001 with Palm powered Kyocera's QCP-6035 (PDA functionality). The first Blackberry phone (Blackberry 5810) didn't come out until Jan-Feb 2002 alongside Palm's own entry the Palm Treo 180. So to give them undue credit is also not fair. The fact of the matter is that they don't innovate very well and have had their lunch handed to them repeatedly. Their newer hardware and software pretty much run like robust versions of what they started out with and for some old stalwarts maybe that's a good thing. But for my generation (I'm 33) Blackberry is behind in a number of categories save for security which is the one thing keeping them in the loop but that gap is getting closed daily by their competitors. I demo'd the new blackberry q10 and it felt like a large, awkward Android OS knockoff with a nod to blackberry functionality. It was a no go. And because I don't require government level security for my place of business, activesync and password authentication works great for my iOS and Android devices. Blackberry is becoming a niche offering and I'm not sure that's what the shareholders want. I received this blackberry email in my box today and I read it and it was very self serving. I actually appreciate this article, cynicism and all. If Blackberry were truly a great company offering great products and services there would be no need for them to send me such an email puffing themselves up. Their output would speak for itself...and it has.
      • uh huh

        I'm sure you've never received an email from any other company in which they puffed themselves up. With that kind of logical reasoning ability, I'm very grateful that you are confined to writing about technology instead of actually building the mission critical systems on which we BlackBerry users rely.

        I found this letter and its wide media coverage reassuring so thanks for the article. It's funniest when the one trying to be funny at the expense of another ends up unwittingly becoming the butt of his own joke.