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BlackBerry open letter tries to set the record straight

A Blackberry logo is seen at the Blackberry campus in Waterloo, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

As it undergoes one of the more wrenching corporate restructuring processes in Canadian history, BlackBerry is launching a PR offensive to calm fears that it’s about to disappear from the landscape.

In full-page ads scheduled to be published online today on BlackBerry.com and in 30 publications worldwide – including the Globe & Mail, National Post, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post – the company wants to set the record straight.

“These are no doubt challenging times for us,” the ads state, “and we don’t underestimate the situation or ignore the challenges. We are making the difficult changes necessary to strengthen BlackBerry.”

Hard times in Waterloo, Ont.

Andrew MacLeod, BlackBerry’s Regional Managing Director, North America, tells Yahoo! Canada Finance that now is the right time to raise the volume of communications.

“We’re certainly going through a very tough transition and a difficult restructuring,” said MacLeod. “Candidly, obviously when you go through a restructuring like we are, it’s going to create some jitters across all segments of our ecosystem. We’re aware of the fact that there’s a ton of speculation out there, and we really wanted to just communicate directly with all the loyal customers and constituents that work with BlackBerry, whether they’re developers, carriers, enterprise customers, or just users on the street.”

Following reports last month that the company was retreating from the consumer market in favour of enterprise and prosumer customers, MacLeod wanted to clarify.

“To be perfectly clear, we are not exiting the consumer market,” he said. “But we are taking a more focused approach, and we’ll be delivering solutions that address the needs of consumers who value a productivity experience above all else. We feel that’s an area and a segment where we can win, where we can deliver a differentiated and competitively superior solution.”

MacLeod says this more refined focus on a specific kind of consumer positions BlackBerry to compete more effectively. He described the company’s focus as “going back to our roots” as it builds deeper relationships with its legacy CIO and IT community.

Software and enterprise management are the other key areas of focus for the company. While its planned launch of BlackBerry Messenger for Android and iOS was postponed last month following the premature leak of some pre-release code, the company now has 6 million users pre-registered for the download. BBM supports 60 million users and is a key component of BlackBerry’s plans to expand its software and enterprise platform management businesses.

“This is going to be a core attribute of our strategy going forward both on the instant messaging and infrastructure side of the house,” said MacLeod. “I think both are extremely important and I’m tremendously excited to see the BlackBerry experience being taken to the iOS and Android platforms. I think it’s going to be huge.”

Cuts get underway

The company last week moved forward with the first of multiple waves of layoffs first announced last month. In Waterloo, the company confirmed 300 employees were let go, with reports saying the enterprise and design departments were specifically impacted. In Bedford, NS, just over 350 employees will lose their jobs when the technical support facility, first opened in 2006, closes in January. Although the planned 4,500 layoffs will reduce head count by 40 per cent, MacLeod says a lot of talent will remain.

“We have thousands and thousands of people who wake up every single day trying to deliver world class mobile solutions to all the different markets we’re serving,” he said. “And we’re fighting, and we’re excited around what the future holds and we’re going to continue to deliver on a daily basis against that mission.”

Carmi Levy is a London, Ont.-based independent technology analyst and journalist. The opinions expressed are his own. carmilevy@yahoo.ca

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