Can Users ‘Continue to Count on Blackberry’ Now?

Blackberry offers little reassurance as private sale implodes.

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Harry McCracken /

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins introduces the BlackBerry Z10 (left) and Q10 (right) smartphones at a press event in New York City.

Blackberry’s future seems more uncertain than ever, with no permanent CEO and no more plan to go private.

The new plan, according to Blackberry, is to sell $1 billion of convertible debt to institutional investors, including major shareholder Fairfax Financial Holdings. CEO Thorsten Heins is stepping down, and the interim CEO will be John Chen, formerly the CEO and Chairman of Sysbase.

Missing from Blackberry’s press statements, however, is any sort of discussion about what this means for Blackberry users.

Blackberry still had more than 60 million users as of May (though that number may have dwindled since then). With the launch of BBM for Android and iOS, Blackberry quickly tacked on another 20 million users of its services. Meanwhile, the company has just launched a new Blackberry 10 phone, the Z30, presumably with the goal of selling a few. But at the moment, users have no reason to adopt Blackberry services with confidence.

Here is the closest Blackberry comes to any sort of customer-facing statement in its latest press release:

Some of the most important customers in the world rely on BlackBerry and we are implementing the changes necessary to strengthen the company and ensure we remain a strong and innovative partner for their needs.

That promise couldn’t be any more vague. What are the changes that Blackberry wants to make now that it has a bigger pile of cash? Who are these “most important” customers, and how will Blackberry convince them to adopt Blackberry 10 now? What happens to customers in emerging markets, who helped keep Blackberry afloat in recent years? Are they now less important? (Also, not counting the disclaimer at the bottom, “Blackberry 10” is mentioned once in the press release, in a passage thanking Heins for his service.)

Just a few weeks ago, Blackberry did try to address the uncertainty in an open letter to consumers. The company promised that “You can continue to count on Blackberry,” and outlined a few areas–productivity, security and social messaging–where Blackberry hopes to excel. Whether or not you think Blackberry has a chance, at least we knew where the company stood and what its goals were.

It might be time for another open letter. The CEO who spearheaded Blackberry 10 is out. The company’s founders left long ago. The idea that Blackberry could become stronger by going private, thereby avoiding Wall Street scrutiny, is dead. The thing that Blackberry’s leadership seems most happy about is the huge cash injection the company just received. But what that money is going toward and how it’ll actually revive Blackberry is anybody’s guess.