Waterloo-based Blackberry has had, to use a technical term, a really crappy week.

After announcing a near $1 billion loss, trading of the company’s stock was halted, and news of layoffs of around 40 per cent of the company’s total workforce started to circulate.

That’s incredibly sobering news for those of us hoping that the new Q10 and Z10 smartphones would help pull the company out of its seeming death spiral. Even though I don’t own one of the company’s handsets (and that fact may be part of the problem), I still want to see it succeed.

My first smartphone was a Blackberry, and despite having to use a little jog wheel to move a cursor around a tiny monochrome screen, it was always clear that it was the first step towards something much bigger, with its ability to send email right from the palm of my hand, from anywhere I happened to be. It’s no secret that businesses around the world agreed, making the Blackberry the de facto standard for business-based communication for many years.

But with the 2007 launch of the iPhone, everything changed as smartphones moved boldly into the consumer space. For the next while, even as Blackberry began to court the consumer space with consumer-focused phones of various levels of efficaciousness, the company could always rely on the business crowd to keep it going. Until BYOD gained traction in the workplace, and then it couldn’t.

The Z10 and Q10 were a long time coming, but the company finally got them out the door this year after many frustrating delays. And despite glowing reviews from gadget fans…sales were underwhelming, ultimately leading to this week’s one-two punch of losses and layoffs.

The general opinion: too little too late, which ultimately led to this week’s financial reckoning. So the last thing Blackberry needed was any more bad news.

Well, it would have been nice.

The expected launch this weekend of the new BBM app for both Android and iOS was supposed to be the one bit of good news amidst this week’s buffet of despair. Even though many users had moved to iOS or Android devices, many users were still using BBM for work. Others just wanted to reconnect with those still tethered to their Blackberry hardware. Whatever the case, these new apps would make that happen.

While the iOS version of BBM started rolling out as planned (around the world, by timezone), it was stopped partway through…and the Android version was a complete no-show.

Partway through the weekend, the company posted a blog entry noting that the launch of the app had been put on hold while the company examined problems caused by a pre-release version of the Android BBM app.

Well, to use a technical term again…crap.

It’s been pretty clear for a while now that things aren’t going very smoothly for Canada’s telecom jewel, but the terrible news from the company over the past week has sent speculation soaring again as to the ultimate future of the company: would it return to its business roots? Would it go up for sale, pronto? Would it get out of hardware altogether and simply focus on software?

While the last option has been seriously batted around even by Blackberry itself, this weekend’s news will undoubtedly, in the eyes of many, cast doubt on the company’s ability to even do that.

Despite all of the flailing around, I still find it hard not to want Blackberry to pull it together and find a way to succeed. But more and more it’s starting to feel like I’m cheering for the local hockey team that just can’t seem to find the puck, let alone the net.



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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada