Open letter to customers: 'You can continue to count on BlackBerry'

One analyst says 'that's silly,' and urges the phone maker to commit to enterprise network support for 18 months

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BlackBerry in its letter even touts its new smartphones as offering the best range of devices for "getting things done." The Z10 and the Q10 got rave reviews from critics for many their functions, including user interface innovations, but neither has garnered the kinds of sales that BlackBerry needs. Meanwhile, Samsung and Apple, among others, keep releasing smartphones that trump BlackBerry's -- phones with more powerful processors, or processors on 64-bit computing, and with unusual features like a fingerprint sensor for security.

The effect of BlackBerry's falling behind in consumer-pleasing smartphone features has been truly devastating despite the Blackberry's advantages for the enterprise. As Bob Egan, an analyst at Sepharim Group, put it on Tuesday, BlackBerry's supportive enterprise base of users has been isolated from the rest of the smartphone competitive ecosystem.

"What BlackBerry said [in its open letter] was 'trust us, we have cash and no debt.' In the face of delayed product launches, massive writedowns and competitively orphaning its enterprise base for years, [that] just seems silly," Egan said.

Egan and other analysts said that customers must notice that BlackBerry's open letter doesn't mention that the company has put itself up for sale, and instead has used terms like "restructuring" and "making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry."

Egan said BlackBerry's letter could have been more direct, pointing out that many companies count on the reliability, security and performance of the BlackBerry network operations center. BlackBerry should have assured customers that BlackBerry will commit to upholding or improving on its service level agreements with its large customers. He even urged BlackBerry to say it will remain connected over the secure network with its 500 carriers partners for another 18 months, at least.

One statement made in the open letter -- that BlackBerry has the best security of any phone out there -- rang true to Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy. Meanwhile, he added, "it's a bit of a stretch to say they have the best MDM and enough cash to survive on their own."

The problem with emphasizing BlackBerry's security is that saying so overlooks its lapses in building cutting-edge smartphones. And that raises the question of whether BlackBerry can continue to survive as a company that supports customers primarily in government and financial institutions, which are mainly interested in BlackBerry's secure network.

While it might seem the latest BlackBerry line of smartphones has little potential interest for buyers, Computerworld found a customer who last week purchased a new Z10 smartphone over the Verizon Wireless network. While he didn't give permission to use his name, the customer lives and works in Virginia and holds a technical quality assurance job in the medical field and plans to use the Z10 for work and personal tasks.

"I like it," he said, while thumbing through features on the Z10's touchscreen. Asked if he's worried about troubles for BlackBerry, he said he's bought products from companies that have "gone under" before and has found he's gotten plenty of continued support. "It's not a problem."

One analyst, Carolina Milanesi of Gartner, said that while Gartner has advised its enterprise clients to find alternatives to BlackBerry in the next six months, it was valuable for BlackBerry to issue its open letter.

"It was time they actually said something to their customers," she said. "Will it make a difference? Probably not -- meaning that enterprises will be looking for an alternative sometime down the line. But it is good customer service to assure your customers that despite what is going on, it is business as usual when it comes to their level of support."

This article, Open letter to customers: 'You can continue to count on BlackBerry', was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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