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Sorry, but BlackBerry is doomed

<b>commentary</b> BlackBerry wants to focus more on the business customer, but the company's latest grim financial results and the lack of broad interest for its phones spell the end for the once high-flying smartphone maker.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
Expertise Mobile, 5G, Big Tech, Social Media Credentials
  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
3 min read
BlackBerry Z30
The Z30 is a case of too little, too late. BlackBerry

It's fitting that on the same day BlackBerry announced it had lost nearly $1 billion in the past quarter thousands of Apple fans were lined up to buy a new iPhone.

The juxtaposition between the have (Apple) and have-not (BlackBerry, obviously) couldn't be more clear, and it only underscores the fact that the reinvented BlackBerry never really had a chance in the smartphone game.

At least on the consumer front, BlackBerry is publicly willing to throw in the towel. Rather than compete directly with Apple's iPhone or an army of Android smartphones, BlackBerry said it will shift its focus to the business and "prosumer" market. It'll attempt to go sleeker by shedding 40 percent of its workforce, slim down to four models of smartphones, and focus on offering "end-to-end" services and hardware.

That all sounds well and good, but BlackBerry is still doomed. The company moved to BlackBerry 10 and introduced a lineup of next-generation smartphones in an effort to combat the bring-your-own-device trend, which has led staffers at businesses far and wide to bring in more Androids and iPhones instead of company-issued BlackBerrys. BlackBerry's hope was that its new smartphones were cool and useful enough that consumers wouldn't mind bringing one to work.

It's clear that scenario didn't play out.

BlackBerry's hefty loss in the fiscal second quarter is largely attributed to a $930 million to $960 million charge it has to take to account for a write-down in inventory of its Z10 smartphone.

You remember the Z10, right? It launched with a ton of fanfare in January, only to fizzle out. The phone didn't appeal to current smartphone users, and even existing BlackBerry customers held off for the Q10, which at least had the type of physical keyboard many of its fans were accustomed to.

The Z10 has essentially been relegated to the bargain bin, moving to the low-end slot as the newly announced jumbo Z30 takes its spot.

Hands on with the BlackBerry Z30
Watch this: Hands-on with the BlackBerry Z30

The new high-end Z30, however, won't make much of a difference. It was quietly announced earlier this week, and the general sentiment was, "too little, too late."

It's a bitter reality for a company whose workforce slaved away in preparation for the launch of the Z10, working to polish up the software and drum up developer support. All of it was for naught, as BlackBerry 10 was met with tepid enthusiasm, as most continued to flock to Android or Apple. To further the indignity, the company will reward 4,500 employees for their hard work by giving them the pink slip.

A decade (or so) of BlackBerry smartphones (pictures)

See all photos

Though BlackBerry still makes a decent chunk of change from its enterprise business, that's an area that's constantly under siege, again because companies don't feel the need to use BlackBerry network services with employees moving to iPhones and Androids. And with BlackBerry actively looking to sell itself, one has to ask: what business wants to take a risk on a company that may or may not exist in 12 months?

No, the move to a business focus is a token gesture.

"With the board of directors publicly considering selling the company in whole or in parts, many potential customers are waiting to see if BlackBerry has a stable future before investing in a new device with a new OS," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis.

At the rate BlackBerry is going, solid ground will be hard to come by.