March 2, 2021

BlackBerry Reports Quarterly Loss

BlackBerry shares tumbled about 28 percent in both U.S. and Toronto trading.

The Canadian smartphone maker, which has struggled to compete against Apple Inc’s iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy phones and other devices powered by Google’s Android operating system, said smartphone sales were up 13 percent from the previous quarter, a period when buyers waited for the BB10 phones to hit the market.

But deliveries are down from a year ago as sales of its older line of BlackBerry devices taper off.

“We haven’t received the BlackBerry 10 unit numbers yet, but certainly it doesn’t bode well for the initial BlackBerry 10 launch, particularly the Z10. But even the outlook for a Q2 loss doesn’t bode well for the Q10 either,” said Brian Colello, an analyst with Morningstar.

BlackBerry launched two all-new smartphones this year, the touch screen Z10 device, followed by the Q10, which includes the mini keyboard many BlackBerry users still covet.

It has also launched the Q5, a lower-end keyboard device targeted at emerging markets, and plans to unveil one more cheaper phone running on its old BlackBerry 7 platform later this year, hoping to stave off market share losses in price- sensitive emerging markets flooded with cheap Android devices.

BlackBerry invented the concept of on-the-go email with clunky little devices with a mini keyboard. It offered levels of security that made the devices attractive to the business, government and legal clients, but they are now moving to other devices and leaving BlackBerry chasing both a high-end and a low-end market.

“They’re not the high-end provider anymore, they’re not Apple, they’re not the low-end provider, they’re not Nokia, so they are in the middle and they do relatively low volumes,” said Daniel Ernst, of Hudson Square Research in New York.

“It’s difficult to make great margins on that kind of volume, so I would say the outlook is quite negative then.”

Excluding one-time items such as the cost of job cuts, BlackBerry reported a loss from continuing operations of $67 million, or 13 cents a share, on revenue of $3.1 billion.

Analysts, on average, expected a profit of 6 cents a share, on revenue of $3.36 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S Estimates.

Earnings were also reduced about 10 cents a share due to Venezuelan currency restrictions.


The company forecast an operating loss in the current quarter. Chief Executive Thorsten Heins cited the need for increased investment in a competitive environment.

The company has been consumed over the last year with developing the new phones and making sure they work, and the devices were not ready for the all-important holiday season at the end of last year.

The Z10 only hit store shelves in the crucial U.S. market in late March, while the Q10 device only reached the United States after the end of BlackBerry’s fiscal first quarter.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said it shipped 6.8 million smartphones in the quarter. On a conference call it said 40 percent of them, or 2.72 million devices, were BlackBerry 10 devices. Analysts looked for shipments of about 3 million of the new phones.

It reported a net loss of $84 million, or 16 cents a share, in the fiscal first quarter ended June 1. That compared with a year-earlier loss of $518 million, or 99 cents a share.

BlackBerry did not provide a detailed outlook for the rest of the year, saying the smartphone market remained highly competitive, making it difficult to estimate units, revenue and levels of profitability. It also said it would not supply subscriber numbers due to changes in its revenue model.

(Writing by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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State of the Art: A BlackBerry Tablet, but Where Are the Apps?

The BlackBerry tablet, though, seems worth a look. The tech world’s been hyperventilating over this thing. It’s called the PlayBook, and it’s a seven-inch touch-screen tablet ($500, $600, and $700 for the 16-, 32- and 64-gigabyte models).

The iPad, of course, is a 10-incher, but seven has its virtues. It’s much easier to hold with one hand, for example. In principle, you ought to be able to slip the PlayBook into the breast pocket of a jacket — but incredibly, the PlayBook is about half an inch too wide. Whoever muffed that design spec should be barred from the launch party.

Still, the PlayBook looks and feels great: hard rubberized back, brilliant, super-responsive multitouch screen, solid heft (0.9 pounds).

Its software is based on an operating system called QNX, which Research In Motion, the BlackBerry’s maker, bought for its industrial stability. (“It runs nuclear power plants,” says a product manager without a trace of current-events irony.)

Nor is QNX the only other company that lent a hand. Palm and Apple were also involved, although they didn’t know it. The PlayBook software is crawling with borrowed ideas.

For example, to remove or rearrange apps, you hold your finger down on one app icon until all icons begin to pulse (hello, iPad!). And to close a program, you swipe your finger upward from the bottom bezel to turn all app windows into “cards,” and then flick one upward off the screen (hello, Palm Pre!).

There are no buttons on the front at all, and the top edge has only On, Play/Pause and volume keys. Instead, you navigate by swiping your finger from the black border, which seems unduly wide, into the screen itself.

Swiping upward reveals your app icons (and turns your apps into “cards”). Swiping left or right cycles among open multitasking apps. And swiping down reveals an app’s toolbar, if it has one.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing beforehand if a toolbar exists, so you often swipe futilely and feel silly. Similarly, if app icons completely fill the home screen, you can swipe upward to reveal more — but you won’t know if there are more until you swipe, because no scrollbar appears beforehand to let you know there’s more below the screen.

But the PlayBook does three impressive things that its rivals — the iPad and the Android tablets — can only dream about.

First, with a special HDMI cable (not included), you can hook it up to a TV or projector, which is great for PowerPoint presentations. (Apparently they still do those in corporations.)

The iPad does that, but the TV image is identical to the iPad’s screen image. The PlayBook, however, can show two different things. On the TV, the audience sees your slides; on the PlayBook, you get to see the traditional PowerPoint cheat sheet of notes and slide thumbnails.

The second cool feature has to do with loading the tablet with your music, photos and music. Unfortunately, there’s no iTunes-like software to do this automatically. You have to drag files manually from your computer into the PlayBook’s folders (Music, Photos and so on). But once you’ve set up this process using a USB cable, you can do it thereafter over Wi-Fi — wirelessly. The PlayBook can even accept such wireless transfers when it’s in sleep mode, sitting in your purse or briefcase across the room.

Finally, there’s a wild, wireless Bluetooth connection feature called BlackBerry Bridge. In this setup, the PlayBook acts as a giant viewing window onto the contents of a BlackBerry phone. Whatever e-mail, calendar, address book and instant messages are on the BlackBerry now show up on the PlayBook’s much roomier screen — a live, encrypted two-way link.

(Another advantage of pairing the PlayBook with a BlackBerry: The tablet can get online using the BlackBerry’s cellular connection. You don’t have to pay another $15 or $20 a month for a tethering plan, as you do with iPhones and Android phones.)

BlackBerry Bridge is supposed to appeal to the corporate network administrators who are R.I.M.’s bread and butter, because they can deploy PlayBooks without having to worry about security breaches. Everything they’ve worked so hard to secure on your BlackBerry — e-mail, calendar and so on — stays there. It only appears to be on the PlayBook.


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