Is BlackBerry Ltd The Old Apple Inc.?

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BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) just can’t catch a break. Even though the Passport sold out within a few days of launch, its stock price has fallen recently and the bears are still calling for the company to be sold for scraps. The juxtaposition of BlackBerry’s pride at having sold 200,000 units when Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) had just moved 10 million iPhone 6s may have something do with it, but until the company actually posts a profit BlackBerry CEO John Chen will have to continue dealing with skeptics.

“Beyond serving the needs or wants of die-hard keyboard-only users, it’s hard to see the Passport gaining a foothold in the marketplace,” writes venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gassée on Monday Note.

Gassée thinks Chen actually intends to sell BlackBerry

Gassée argues that Chen, who is best known for turning around struggling database company Sybase and then arranging a profitable sale to SAP, is trying to do the same for BlackBerry. Since the current stock price puts BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) at about $5.4 billion and the company has $3 billion in cash, Gassée argues that if Chen could sell the firm’s assets for more than the difference shareholders would have to be happy with the outcome. The IP portfolio, QNX OS, and enterprise business should all have eager buyers; getting the handset division into shape even at a fraction of its normal size could help make that happen.

Chen has always said that he intends to stay the course and that investors should expect his turnaround strategy to take a couple of years to work out (we’re still less than one year in), but the continued cash burn fuels speculation that he would be willing to entertain offers now that the stock price has appreciated by more than a quarter.

Gassée compares BlackBerry to early 90s Apple

Gassée didn’t just check in to say that he’s unimpressed by the BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) Passport, he also thinks that some people have taken the wrong lesson from BlackBerry’s decline. Instead of focusing on the professional aesthetic and hardware keyboard, Gassée thinks that BlackBerry had lost the smartphone war before it even started fighting because it was built on technology that proved to be inflexible. He compares BlackBerrys to the Apple ][, a well-built computer that had to be redesigned to make use of better technology instead of simply adding more modules like the PC and the Mac.

It’s a funny example to use because there’s no denying that the Apple ][‘s market share fell way behind PCs running on Windows, but that was before Apple went through the most incredible corporate transformation in recent history when Steve Jobs returned to the helm. If anything, Gassée’s choice of examples shows that tech companies can recover if the right leadership is in place.

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About the Author

Michael Ide
Michael has a Bachelor's Degree in mathematics and physics from Boston University and Master's Degree in physics from University of California, San Diego. He has worked as an editor and writer for several magazines. Prior to his career in journalism, Michael Worked in the Peace Corps teaching math and science in South Africa.

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