BlackBerry reported quarterly results at the end of last week and the numbers, whilst not pretty, showed an improvement. The business reported a smaller quarterly loss and a quarter-by-quarter increase in revenue over two years. The stockmarket liked this news, anticipating something of a turnaround in BlackBerry’s fortunes, and the share price increased by thirteen percent. To look at the numbers, BlackBerry’s loss was $89 million ($0.17 a share), compared with a loss this time last year of $148 million ($0.28 a share). After restructuring costs and other notable, one off events, this $89 million is reduced to $15 million. Quarterly revenue was thirty one percent less than this time last year, but twelve percent greater than the second quarter. Analysts’ expectations were for the business to report a loss of $0.14 a share. Looking into the numbers, software revenue dramatically increased in this quarter, which made up for a steep decline in legacy system access fees. BlackBerry have been reinventing themselves as a software business for some time now but this is the first tangible evidence that the transformation is working.
On the subject of device sales, during the quarter, BlackBerry sold 700,000 devices at an average selling price of $315. This is a smaller number of device sales compared with the previous quarter’s 800,000, but at a significantly higher price as the previous period, the average price was $240. On the subject of smartphones, BlackBerry’s Chief Executive Officer, John Chen, said this: “We’re planning on other Android phones, but it all hinges on how we do with the Priv… I’ve said that if we cannot make money we’re going to get out of the phone business, and I mean hardware. We have tons of software that absolutely could run, not only on Android phones, but Apple and Windows phones too. The BlackBerry Priv, the manufacturer’s first Android-powered by Android, will be on sale in thirty countries by the end of this quarter. John possibly sees the hardware sales business turning the quarter into the end of 2015 but it appears that device sales hinge on the success, or otherwise, of the BlackBerry Priv but BlackBerry wish to keep making devices and licensing software at the same time.
BlackBerry have come a long way and have learnt some painful lessons over the years. The current refocus onto security software solutions, and the marketing and licensing of their patents, appears to be working for the business. The BlackBerry Priv smartphone is eclectic but has a very definite appeal; it’s still too soon to know if this device will sell well enough to persuade BlackBerry to stay in the handset business. Meanwhile, selling software security solutions to customers of other smartphone platforms appears a solid business plan. When there’s a gold rush, sell the spades.