Last year, I introduced a weekly series called "CEO Gaffe of the Week." Having come across more than a handful of questionable executive decisions when compiling my list of the worst CEOs of 2011, I thought it could be a learning experience for all of us if I pointed out apparent gaffes as they occur. Trusting your investments begins with trusting the leadership at the top -- and with leaders like these on your side, sometimes you don't need enemies!
This week, I'll be highlighting a company all too familiar with this dubious honor, BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) and its CEO, Thorsten Heins.
The dunce cap
It appears that we've switched CEOs, from the joint leadership of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to Thorsten Heins, and changed the name of the company, yet we've still wound up in the exact same predicament anyway.
Despite a rapidly shrinking base of BlackBerry users, those few BB faithful still left, and those tired of the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone's iOS and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android, are eager for something new. According to comScore, which released its U.S. fourth-quarter market share data this week, Google's Android OS accounted for 53.4% of all U.S. market share with Apple's iOS grabbing 36.3%. The remaining 10% is split among BlackBerry, which clocked in at just 6.4% of U.S. smartphone market share, Microsoft, whose share shrank to just 2.9%, and Nokia, whose long-abandoned Symbian OS clocked in at a meager 0.6%.
Things were expected to change with the unveiling of the BlackBerry Q10 and Z10 designs last week. It was a chance for BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins to show the world what his company had been working on for the past two years. Over that time span, BlackBerry had encountered multiple delays, so you can imagine that users were excited for the latest and greatest of what the company had to offer.
The two devices, the Q10 and the Z10, differ in that the Z10 is a touchscreen-only device while the Q10 utilizes the company's recognizable keyboard. Strike one came when Heins noted that the Z10 wasn't going to be released in the U.S. until mid-March despite strong purported sales in select markets of the U.K. and Canada. Heins placed the delay on the domestic carriers and their strict testing requirements but it does little to satiate a crowd that's waited two years for a new device.
To the corner, Mr. Heins
Well, at least the BB faithful that are eagerly awaiting their active keyboard Q10 are going to get their phones at the same time, right? Buzzzzzzz. Incorrect, please try again!
Would you really be shocked by now if I noted that there was yet another delay in the works because of "domestic carrier testing" on the Q10 keyboard? "How long?" you ask? How about another eight to 10 weeks after the Z10 release (Heins' "best guess"). This means it could be another four months and change before BlackBerry even begins rolling out its full line of products in the U.S. By then, Apple will be readying for what's become the yearly launch of a new iPhone product in the late summer/early fall, and Samsung will almost certainly be gearing up to release another version of its Android-based Galaxy series around the same time. Perhaps the only competitive chance BlackBerry had of regaining market share was in launching as far away from an Apple or Samsung launch as possible -- and it even screwed that up!
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," goes the saying. Does anyone know what wisdom can be learned by BlackBerry trying to fool the Street around a half dozen times with its BB10 timeline? Feel free to post your answer in the comment section below!
Do you have a CEO you'd like to nominate for this dubious honor? Shoot me an email and a one- or two-sentence description of why your choice deserves next week's nomination, and you just may see your suggestion in the spotlight.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He is merciless when it comes to poking fun at dubious CEO antics. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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