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New Quarter, Same Bad News for BlackBerry

By Chris Neiger – Mar 31, 2014 at 7:00PM

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BlackBerry may be cutting costs, but things overall are still moving in the wrong direction.

Last week, BlackBerry (BB 3.68%) released its fourth-quarter fiscal 2014 earnings report and easily surpassed Wall Street expectations for quarterly losses. But with its handset business still in dire shape, the latest quarter doesn't provide any conciliation that the company is on the upswing.

The harsh realities
BlackBerry's quarterly numbers continue to paint a familiar and grim picture for the company. Revenue in fiscal Q4 was down 19% sequentially, to $976 million. That's a 64% drop in revenue year over year. Part of its falling revenue comes from chronic dismal smartphone sales. It sold just 3.4 million devices to end consumers this past quarter, of which just 1.1 million were on the latest BB10 platform. While BB10 was supposed to help put it back in the smartphone spotlight, it never lived up to the hype. So the latest sales numbers aren't all that surprising, but still sting as the company has tried to focus on a turnaround.

Devices aren't the only part of BlackBerry that are suffering, though. Revenue from services was $547 million for the quarter, down 14% sequentially. And things aren't likely to get better next quarter. BlackBerry said it expects similar declines in the fiscal first quarter.

The one bright spot came from BlackBerry's slashing of operating expenses, by 30% from the previous quarter. CEO John Chen said in the earnings call that the cuts this quarter put the company "a quarter ahead of schedule at this point."

The mushy opportunities
BlackBerry's options to create a profitable and strong company continue to be elusive, though. While it expects to be cash flow even by next year and break even with its handsets in fiscal 2016, there doesn't seem to be much for investors to cling to.

We already mentioned BB10 is in dire straits, and I just don't see what the company has that could eventually put it on the right path. Software offerings like QNX are hardly a saving grace and neither is BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). Though BBM has a promising revenue stream, it's still not strong enough to change the company's direction.

So what else is there?

BlackBerry seems to be talking a lot about physical keyboards these days. Last month, in what seemed like an attempt to lure back old-school BlackBerry users, the company introduced the Q20 with a trackpad and QWERTY keyboard. Chen also mentioned in the quarterly call that the company will bring back the famed BlackBerry Bold, also with a physical keyboard. Of course, BlackBerry's not betting its future on physical keyboards, but besides tapping into old loyalties, there's nothing substantial there to reverse consumers' lack of interest in its devices.

I think its devices are the only things that could change BlackBerry's fate. And so far, they've done anything but that. Older devices are outselling the newer ones, proving that despite cutting costs, BlackBerry's hardware problems are from over.

Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned, and neither does The Motley Fool. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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