Return of the Berry?

Ashley is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

If there’s one thing everyone loves- it’s a great comeback story. From the heights of success to mediocrity to reclaiming success again, a comeback story is only complete if the audience share their fair share of reservations on whether the subject of the story can make it back to the top. Examples of famous comeback stories include Ford, Best Buy, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) … and Robert Downey Jr. So, by the end of this year, will BlackBerry be a part of this list? Does the Z10 and the Q10 have what it takes to drag the newly christened BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) (formerly RIM) back to where it used to be? Now that is the question a lot of websites and tech commentators are arguing about. But personally, I don’t feel the future of BlackBerry lies solely on their flagship products, instead, an in-depth look should be taken on their journey and the challenges they faced on their way. Plus, there’s no harm in laughing at a few of their goof ups too.

The good

The BlackBerry Z10 and the Q10 is entering a marketing that’s already pretty much dominated by the Android devices and the iPhones. But both these devices seem to be exciting and early reviews of the Z10 are positive. If there’s one thing that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has shown with its Windows Phone OS, it’s that consumers will buy devices that are good and different from the existing offerings.  The BlackBerry Z10 and the Q10 have a great chance of wooing potential smartphone buyers towards them and unless there’s some serious hidden defect with the devices, then BlackBerry is in for a good run.

Also, BlackBerry’s stronghold used to be corporate users and they used to stick with impressing them. But now with the release of their tablet ‘Playbook’ and their new OS the BlackBerry 10, they’ve decided to see the light and make it accessible to general users as well. Apple's iPad Mini is just a smaller version of their iPads (meaning consumers have already seen what it can do) and Microsoft's Surface Pro hasn't lived up to the high expectations it initially had. So, that means future Playbook versions can succeed if their OS is user friendly, unique and got a good collection of apps for its users.

So far, BlackBerry has taken the right steps and that’s positive.

The bad

BlackBerry’s stock performance does not paint a positive picture. Ever since the Z10 and the Q10 were announced, the stock took a 25% hit that day, but then again, it has seen an improvement ever since. Many investors are worried about whether BlackBerry has the mileage to keep mounting a sustained push towards the top. In 2011, they almost fell to Bankruptcy and even when the iPhone and the Android devices started picking up momentum, they didn’t do enough (or rather, nothing at all) to challenge these two newcomers and positioned their devices as a serious corporate device. Senior executives banked on the loyalty of their existing customers and that blew up right on their faces.

So, even if the Z10 and Q10 manage to sell reasonably well, what then? If there's one thing Apple and Microsoft has shown is competitors, it's that products need to continually excite users and that requires innovation. There are unconfirmed reports that Apple is working on an iOS watch, while they continue to develop their existing line of iPhones, iPads and iPods. Microsoft is continuing to grow with its Windows 8 OS (both desktop and mobile). Other than smartphones, BlackBerry has the Playbook tablet to offer but other than that, there's nothing. So far, they're concerned only with getting back into the smartphone department and that's a bit worrying.

BlackBerry’s recent history has been less than convincing, but if they’ve learnt their lesson then George Bernard Shaw’s saying of “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning from experience” shouldn’t apply to them. Or at least let’s hope not.

The funny

I’m not sure whether you liked the BlackBerry Super Bowl ad, but for me it was very confusing and downright weird. True, Super Bowl ads tend to be more creative and colorful than being logical, but still I didn’t know what the ad was trying to say at all – what not to expect from it? Bursting into flames, growing trunks and etc.? Well, yeah we know that’s never going to happen! There was nothing about what the Z10 can do … so it was a miss for me! But then, it was voted the most popular ad in the NFL website, but still … what was that?

Another interesting piece of information that most people have somehow missed was this big goof-up from RIM Europe MD when interviewing for the BBC Radio Live 5. When asked the question “What have you learned from Apple?,” the RIM Executive actually ignores the question and speaks about the market and stuff. When the interviewer persists on this question, this guy amazingly ignores it again until the interviewer concedes defeat. Talk about a good publicity and assuring investors, right?

Foolishly speaking

BlackBerry Z10 has launched in Canada and the UK.On its launch day, Thorsten Heins (the CEO of BlackBerry) announced that it was more than 50% better than any other launch day in the history of BlackBerry in Canada. In the UK, the white Z10 is sold out (till Feb 18) through the Carphone Warehouse while other are also reporting strong sales. Off to a good start? Well, we’ll have to wait and see for that once BlackBerry Z10 launched in other geographies. Currently BlackBerry’s P/E ratios stand at 19.7x and when comparing their stock value on their launch day ($12.92) to their current value ($16-17), BlackBerry seems to be on the right course. What remains to be seen is how they follow up the Z10 and the Q10.

2013 will definitely be the year for BlackBerry to mount a serious comeback. They’ve started off the year by shrugging of skepticism and they’ve launched the Z10 successfully in UK and Canada. But they’ve still got a long way to go and 2013 is just the start of it. I, for one, would love to see them back as serious contenders because they always did make awesome devices, regardless of how they were positioned and marketed. But all said and done, this is a new start for them and if they get their strategy right, then their name will definitely be placed next to Robert Downey Jr … Sorry, I meant Apple.


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