The once must-have business device has suffered dwindling market share and profits. A panel of experts look at whether the iconic Canadian brand can turn its fortunes around
When Canadian engineering students Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin set up electronics company Research In Motion in Canada in 1984 they set about developing a handheld device which would allow users to securely send and receive emails while outside the office.
The result - the BlackBerry - soon became a must-have device for every business executive, government official, US president and Hollywood starlet and revolutionised how people do business and interact with each other.
Fast forward to the new millennium and the onset of competition from the likes of Apple's iPhone and rival devices running on Google's Android software and its popularity, market share and profitability has strunk dramatically
It’s once idolised BBM messaging system has also faced challenges from WhatsApp and other imitators and the once unique selling point has now been opened up to other operating systems - with Microsoft's Windows Phone being the latest to adopt it.
Statistics from the Middle East show the story isn’t great either, with analysts claiming that BlackBerry’s share of the smartphone market in the Middle East and Africa region has dropped quarter-on-quarter from almost 20 percent in 2012 to just under 5 percent in Q1, 2014.
That said, in the UAE it is still proving popular, with Nielsen rating showing the Canadian telecoms icon holds 21 percent of the smartphone market, but with Samsung the runaway winner with 35 percent and Apple holding 24 percent. This is despite the fact that there was issues in the past with security of data and the availability of some functions and applications on newly launched models.
So can the company turn its fortunes around and does it have a future? It certainly still generates a lot of interest, the launch of the latest Z3 model spurred a lot of interest on ArabianBusiness.com among users when it was announced it would become available in the UAE from this week.
In terms of profit, the company last month posted a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss as its turnaround efforts appear to take hold. John Chen, who took the reins at BlackBerry late last year, has worked rapidly to trim costs, giving the Ontario-based company more time to stabilise its struggling handset business and earn more money from services and software.
With quarterly revenue down to $966 million, from $3.07 billion a year earlier, are consumers, retailers and analysts convinced Chen can achieve his goals and revitalise the company? Will the Z3 be the saviour everyone hopes?
We asked a select group of telecoms experts from various fields and from around the world to give us their two cents on some of the pertinent issues and many offered up further food for thought for BlackBerry and its customers.
The expert panel debating the issue consists of (in no particular order):
Christophe Corsie, Country Director, UAE, BlackBerry
Nabila Popal, Research Manager at International Data Corporation (IDC) MEA
Brandon Ackroyd, Head of Customer Insight and Mobile Phone Expert at Tigermobiles.com
Nadeem Khanzadah, Head of Retail at Jumbo Electronics
Daniel Gleeson, Senior Analyst, Mobile Devices & Networks at IHS Technology
Manish Punjabi, Channel Marketing Manager at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise
Michael G Jacobides, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School
Haritha Ramachandran, Industry Manager, Information and Communication Technologies Practice, Middle East and North Africa at consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan
Join the debate by having your own say in the comments section below
Click on the next page to hear from our first expert: Blackberry's own representative in the UAE...