President Obama has been making headlines this week not for the government health-care website, but for his taste in smartphones. It's no secret the president is a big fan of his BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY ) device; he's mentioned it many times since taking office back in 2008. But since that time, BlackBerry has tumbled from a worldwide smartphone leader to a company holding on for dear life. Government agencies, consumers, and large business are moving away from BlackBerry devices -- and the company may need a Christmas miracle to turn itself around.
Source: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson.
'Tis the season for ditching BlackBerry
Obama said on Wednesday that he's not allowed to have an Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iPhone for security reasons, but that hasn't stopped a massive amount of U.S. government agencies from switching to the device. The list of agencies that have switched from BlackBerry to iPhones continues to grow and now includes the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, and others.
Agencies such as the Department of Defense have recently allowed iPhones as an option in addition to BlackBerries, and while there certainly may be security concerns the president has that other government agencies don't, it doesn't change the fact that BlackBerry isn't in the best long-term solution.
BlackBerry has been on a downward spiral since its heights of 2008. The company put itself up for possible sale back in August, only to take the option off the table over recently. BlackBerry interim Chief Executive John Chen told Reuters this week, "Our 'for sale' sign has been taken down and we are here to stay." But that comes as the company has reduced its employee count over the past few years and said in September that it will cut another 4,500 jobs -- about 40% of its current employees.
BlackBerry wants to refocus its attention back to enterprise customers, but as Android devices and Apple iPhones have grown in popularity, security, and apps, it's getting harder to convince customers that BlackBerry devices are the way to go. Research firm IDC said last year that by 2016 the iPhone will be the leading corporate mobile device, and while BlackBerry had highly secure devices, the lack of developer and consumer interest is hurting the company.
Coal in the stocking
BlackBerry investors may be happy the company is no longer for sale, but its current prospects don't look terribly bright. With lackluster consumer sales and large corporations and government agencies, moving away from the company, additional customers are becoming scarce. Last month Pfizer said it's halting its use of BlackBerry devices for its employees because of the company's "volatile state." It seems President Obama may be one of the last major BlackBerry supporters, but even he may not be able to hold on to his device. With BlackBerry's future so uncertain, it may time for someone to slip an iPhone into the president's stocking.
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