BlackBerry announced today that it’s laying off 4,500 people and will be posted a loss of nearly $1 billion in the second quarter as it writes down the value of unsold inventory. Ian Austen writing for the New York Times is still entertaining the theory that the company somehow might be saved by going private: “Under such a scenario,it would no longer have to manage quarterly financial results and appease public investors who are often interest in short-term stock gains.”
I’d say dream on. You’ve got iPhone doing what it’s doing. Then you’ve got a whole bunch of companies making Android phones, most of them doing so for near-zero profit margins. Then you have Microsoft losing money on its Windows Phone endeavors but with all the vast profits of Windows/Office to back up its efforts to break into mobile. What kind of opportunity does that leave for BlackBerry even if they had amazing success on the engineering front?
At any rate, watching BlackBerry’s various executives flail around for the past few years has been fun, but we’re now deep into the “tragic layoffs ruining the lives of thousands of rank-and-file workers” phase of this and there are all kinds of sad knock-on consequences for the town of Waterloo and the larger region. But it’s just extremely difficult to imagine any scenario under which the company can stay viable at this point. Despite the way the iPhone damaged BlackBerry’s business, you could see recovering from a blow like that. But what Google’s done in terms of unleashing a quality free mobile phone operating system onto the market makes the whole situation impossible.