Did you catch BlackBerry’s Open Letter to its customers, partners and fans?

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I was reading The Times this morning looking for Bizcrowd ads. I can’t quite remember the advertising schedule we’re operating with the media. I have it written somewhere in a spreadsheet and I routinely keep getting the days and newspapers wrong. So today I bought The Times. I scrolled paged through the paper and didn’t find anything from Bizcrowd. It must be tomorrow.

But I did come across this thoroughly stimulating BlackBerry ad. I tried as well as I could to capture a photo of it.

I hoped they’d reproduced it online so did a quick search and came across it. The add is full text, no imagery. It reminds me slightly of those Jack Daniels posters you often see on the tubes. The ones that I like to read. I think we all do. Reading a bit of well written copy does pass the time when you’re waiting for the tube.

BlackBerry’s Open Letter is excellent. Here, have a read:

To our valued customers, partners and fans:

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 have one important message for you:

You can continue to count on BlackBerry.

How do we know? We have substantial cash on hand and a balance sheet that is debt free. We are restructuring with a goal to cut our expenses by 50 percent in order to run a very efficient, customer-oriented organisation.

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

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.

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

Best in Class Productivity Tool

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.

Best in Class Security

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.

Best in Class Enterprise Mobility Management

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.

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.

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.

Best in Class Mobile Social Network

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

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 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.

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.

Sincerely,
The BlackBerry Team

This is precisely what the company has been needing to do for quite a while. In fact I would go so far as to state that I think this will have been a more influential campaign than anything the company has done in a long, long time.

Speaking to the reader as an adult is important.

For far too long the focus has been on everyone. Anyone. I hope this is the start of a refocus for the company. A focus back on the real customer: Someone who spends a bit of money. Someone who cares about security and a best-in-class messaging experience.

I do feel that it was quite easy for BlackBerry to focus on the consumer, especially once they’d got into the groove of manufacturing such capable smartphones but at an ultra low bill of materials. In some interviews with executives in years gone by it did feel at times as though they’d fallen into the consumer success that the company enjoyed.

It’s a rather challenging time for BlackBerry customers and fans — and, I’d imagine, this challenge is magnified dramatically for the individuals working at the company, especially in the wake of more cost cutting. When you’re spending your hard earned ‘operator credit’ on the handset for the next 24 months, it’s unlikely that BlackBerry will be at the top of a lot of lists. This is despite a good, sizeable presence in most operator stores in the UK.

My response to the ad was a big smile. I felt a lot better about BlackBerry that I have done in a while. It’s been difficult not to conclude that really, it’s time to wait-n-see. Taking BlackBerry private is a smart move. An acquisition by an existing mobile company could be really stimulating. But to all the folk who shake their heads, especially in the big banks. FTSEs, law firms and Governments who flatly tell me BlackBerry is dead, I still delight in pointing toward the pile of phones on the table. Invariably there’s a top of the range iPhone, Android (or, increasingly, Windows Phone) sitting there. But right next to it, if you’re important enough, there’s a BlackBerry.

“That,” I say, pointing at the BlackBerry — or sometimes I pick it up and thrust it into the face of the person, “That is earning a monthly recurring revenue fee via the operator.”

When the person’s face changes swiftly to recognise that I’m right, I then ram my point home.

“Who’s the money going to?” I prompt.

I then usually have to follow up explaining that obviously there’s a revenue charge taken from each BlackBerry service / license by the operator. Often there might be a third party service provider in there too. Ultimately though, there’s regular subscription revenue flowing back to BlackBerry on a monthly basis, particularly from the big corporates.

The points that each of the paragraphs in the open letter are well made. Addressing the ‘headlines’ was important. Highlighting the company’s heritage in the messaging space, together with the need for demonstrable, proven security. I liked the part about the world-changing decisions being transmitted via BlackBerry. But mostly, I liked the way in which BlackBerry appears to have found a sensible, steady voice.

Whoever masterminded this, give them a big prize.

For those who don’t care about BlackBerry, the open letter will be of little consequence. That’s no problem. You can worry about winning those folk and bringing them along later on. It’s the people who stopped flicking through the newspaper or the internet that matter. The people who thought, ‘Yeah, hold on let me have a read of this.’ They’re the ones that BlackBerry needed to reactivate.

Well, it wasn’t even a reactivation.

There’s not much news. Yes they managed to explain that there are 4 current BB10 models out and available at the moment however there’s not much in the way of company strategy news going on. Not whilst the company’s in the middle of being taken private. Maybe. We just don’t know what’s going to happen across the next few months. Neither does BlackBerry, I’d imagine. But that shouldn’t — and didn’t — stop the company communicating.

It was a good reminder.

I hope BlackBerry does another letter soon. When is the second Open Letter coming? “Dear Reader, last month we wrote to you about…”

That would rock.

Now then, is this enough to have you walking into Vodafone to chuck your iPhone? Perhaps not yet. But in the corporate sphere, where decisions about what to do about ‘the BlackBerry problem’ are being taken on a daily basis, the open letter has been well received. I’ve already spoken to four chaps, each of whom is responsible for, or closely influences estates of between 2,000 and 5,000 BlackBerry deployments here in the UK. They are uniformly positive. They’re still looking at other solutions — even BlackBerry’s Open Letter recognised that many users have other preferences nowadays — but today’s letter has given them a much needed shot of confidence that the lights are still on in Waterloo.

Thoughts?

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2 Responses to Did you catch BlackBerry’s Open Letter to its customers, partners and fans?

  1. Mike42 October 16, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    “to expand BBM beyond BlackBerry® smartphones to make it the world’s largest mobile social network”

    REALLY?

    That’s some weapons-grade delusion right there.

    Thing is, it’s not the end-user they need to sell to. It’s the CIO/CTO justifying that recurring monthly fee to the board, while iOS and Android support secure pushmail, remote wipe etc etc out of the box, for free.

  2. Stoli89 October 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    I too found the letter delusional; if not, then totally disingenuous. This is a company that may be debt free, but it’s burning cash like there is no tomorrow (literally). It’s balance sheet may be OK at the moment, but this is but a snapshot. I’m more concerned with its viability 2 to 3 years down the road. Frankly, given the raft of bad news, I cannot believe BB will remain whole for another 12 months. Sure, some of its assets will continue to carry the BB moniker, but the entire enterprise doesn’t have legs, IMO.

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