BlackBerry today announced the availability of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.2 software. The mobile device management suite for companies adds a handful of new features, including expanded support for Android and iOS devices. Companies that use BES 10.2 will be able to control app and system updates pushed to Android and iOS devices, as well as sandbox and secure work data separately from personnel data on devices owned by employees. BES 10.2 gives end users self-service options in order to help reduce calls to IT, and lets businesses manage more devices (up to 100,000) for less money. BES 10.2 can be downloaded directly from BlackBerry.
BlackBerry today said that BBM Channels has graduated from beta status and will begin rolling out this afternoon to all BlackBerries running OS 5 and up. BBM Channels acts similar to social networks in that users can subscribe to channels, which are based on certain topics or brands, and receive updates when the channels have new content. Users can create their own channels and push updates to select groups of followers or users in a manner similar to Twitter. BlackBerry imagines that it will be best-used by companies and brands looking to connect with fans. BBM Channels will be available for download from the BlackBerry World store starting at 3pm Eastern Time.
BlackBerry today announced another shift at the top level of its management. The company said that Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear, and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben will both leave the Company. Further, James Yersh will replace Brian Bidulka as its Chief Financial Officer and Roger Martin, a board member since 2007, has resigned. The changes follow the departure of CEO Thorsten Heins, who was replaced by interim CEO John Chen. "BlackBerry has a strong cash position and continues to be the top provider of trusted and secure mobile device management solutions to enterprise customers around the world," said Chen. "I will continue to align my senior management team and organizational structure, and refine [BlackBerry's] strategy to ensure we deliver the best devices, mobile security and device management" solutions.
Microsoft filed a lawsuit against Acacia Research this week over a broken contract pertaining to smartphone patents. Microsoft signed an agreement with an Acacia subsidiary in 2010 to license some of its mobile device patents. Last month, other Acacia subsidiaries sued Microsoft for violating about a dozen mobile device patents. Microsoft's lawsuit is a response to the first. Acacia and its subsidiaries are owned by Access, which is based in Japan.
BlackBerry today made available updates to the BlackBerry Messenger application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of BBM gains support for BBM contact categories, Group List sorting and filtering, more PIN-sharing options, and the ability to search for BBM users through social networks. The iOS version of BBM gains support for iPads and iPods running iOS6/7, improved right-to-left language support, PIN-sharing options, and social network searching. It also resolves a bug that left some users unable to see BBM contact names. BlackBerry Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
John S. Chen, BlackBerry's new chief executive officer and chairman of the board, issued a statement today about the company's direction. According to Chen, the company is committed to regaining its former stature in the mobile industry. "We have begun moving the company to embrace a multi-platform, BYOD world by adopting a new mobility management platform and a new device strategy. We are also leveraging our tremendous assets, including BBM, our network and QNX. While we are proud of these accomplishments, we know there is more work to be done. I know that it's going to take time, discipline and tough decisions to reclaim BlackBerry's success and we are ready for that challenge." Chen went on to say that the company remains committed to its customers and won't desert them. "We also want our customers to know that BlackBerry has significant financial strength for the long-haul," said Chen. "I believe in the value of this brand. With the right team and right strategy in place, I am confident that we will rebuild BlackBerry for the benefit of all of our constituencies." Chen was installed as BlackBerry CEO just last week after the company decided to remain an independent firm, rather than allow itself to be acquired. It accepted $1 billion in capital from Fairfax Financial Holdings, and ousted Thorsten Heins, who served as CEO from January 2012 to November 2012. Chen is officially an interim CEO while the company looks for a permanent replacement for Heins. Sales of BlackBerry smartphones have dwindled to a very small percentage of the market over the course of the last year, despite the launch of new hardware such as the Z10 and Q10.
Verizon Wireless today indicated that the BlackBerry Z30 smartphone will be available online beginning November 14. It costs $199.99 with a new two-year contract, or $22.91 per month for 24 months with Verizon Edge.
BlackBerry's new chief executive officer, John S. Chen, today said that the company has no plans to shutter its smartphone business unit. "I know we have enough ingredients to build a long-term sustainable business," said Chen, speaking to Reuters. "I have done this before and seen the same movie before." Chen is confident that the company has all the right ingredients to stage a meaningful comeback. Chen is taking the reigns from Thorsten Heins, who is exiting the company after arranging a $1 billion investment from Fairfax Financial Holdings and other firms.
BlackBerry has altered course and is no longer seeking to sell itself. The company today announced that it plans to replace CEO Thorsten Heins, replace several board members, and has secured $1 billion in financing from Fairfax Financial and other investors. The company was originally awaiting word from Fairfax Financial on a deal that would have seen the smartphone maker sold in its entirety to the private equity firm for $4.7 billion. Fairfax's deal had a deadline set to expire today. That deal is now off the table, as Fairfax was unable to raise the entire $4.7 billion. Instead, Fairfax is making a major investment in the company and Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa will join BlackBerry's board. Fairfax is bringing in John S. Chen to serve as Executive Chair of BlackBerry's Board of Directors and interim CEO while the company searches for a new chief executive. Chen will replace Heins, who will resign once the deal closes. Heins has been CEO since January 2012, when he replaced former co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie. "Today's announcement represents a significant vote of confidence in BlackBerry and its future by this group of preeminent, long-term investors," said Barbara Stymiest, Chair of BlackBerry's Board. "The Board conducted a thorough review of strategic alternatives and pursued the course of action that it concluded is in the best interests of BlackBerry and its constituents, including its shareholders. This financing provides an immediate cash injection on terms favorable to BlackBerry, enhancing our substantial cash position. We are implementing the changes necessary to strengthen the company and ensure we remain a strong and innovative partner."
Former BlackBerry CEO and co-founder Mike Lazaridis is close to reaching an agreement with private equity firm Cerberus that would see them make a joint bid for the ailing smartphone maker. According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, Lazaridis and another co-founder of BlackBerry, Doug Fregin, may combine their own shares with capital from Cerberus. BlackBerry already has an offer on the table from Fairfax Financial Holdings with a November 4 deadline attached. If no other legitimate offers come through before November 4, Fairfax can move forward with its bid to acquire the company and take it private. Both Cerberus and Lazaridis have previously and separately made noise about making bids for BlackBerry. Several other firms have expressed interest, too, but no solid offers have been made other than the one from Fairfax. The Journal's sources say that while a deal between Lazaridis and Cerberus is a possibility, they may not make a bid in time to beat the November 4 deadline. Following its initial report, the Journal later reported that Qualcomm is talking to Lazaridis and Cerberus, as well.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Google, Samsung, Huawei, and HTC. Rockstar alleges that the companies are violating its patents. Google, in particular, stands accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Specific details about Samsung, HTC, and Huawei's infringements weren't immediately specified. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents. Google and others attempted to buy the same patents won by Rockstar. "Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe," read a portion of the lawsuit.
Verizon Wireless today announced that the BlackBerry Z30 smartphone will reach company stores in early November. The device will be sold for $199.99 with a new contract, or for $22.91 for 24 months for customers who choose Verizon's Edge upgrade plan. The Z30 has a 5-inch HD display and runs BlackBerry 10.2.
SAP does not have any gaps in its mobile business services, said CFO Werner Brandt, and the company is unlikely to make any sort of play for BlackBerry. "Blackberry doesn't fit with our strategy," said Brandt in an interview with Euro am Sonntag magazine. SAP, based in Germany, offers software and services to businesses. BlackBerry has been shopping its business around to potential suitors while exploring strategic alternatives. It has an offer on the table from Fairfax Financial holdings, and several others have signed non-disclosure agreements with the company in order to assess the company's financial standing. Reuters reports that Google, Intel, and Cisco are still mulling whether or not to take a stab at acquiring all or portions of the ailing smartphone maker. The offer from Fairfax has a November 4 expiration date, meaning if no other significant offers are made before then, it can move forward with its acquisition plans.
BlackBerry today announced the release of BlackBerry OS 10.2. The updated operating system introduces a wide range of new features, such as Priority Hub, which learns what conversations are important to the user and automatically puts those messages at the top of the inbox. The inbox is now better at handling attachments, which can be organized across conversations. Other new features include improved BBM Video messaging with "natural sound"; previews of BBM, SMS, and email messages from within any app; improvements to the keyboard and copy-and-paste behavior; better sharing tools across social networks; reply to incoming calls with email, SMS, or BBM; and general improvements to the calendar. According to BlackBerry, BlackBerry 10.2 will be available in Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East beginning this week. It will reach Latin America next month, but won't reach the U.S. until "this winter." As always, the timing of the operating system update's availability will depend on each individual country and carrier.
BlackBerry today announced that it is restarting its aborted launch of BlackBerry Messenger for the Android and iOS platforms. The application should appear in the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store later today. In order to manage demand for the app, BlackBerry has established a sign-up process for it. Mobile device users interested in the messaging application will need to download the app and register to reserve a place in line. BlackBerry will then email people who've downloaded/installed the app when it can bring them aboard the service. BlackBerry said people will be able to monitor their "spot in line" to see how long it will take to activate the service, but it didn't provide any sort of estimate on how long that might be. According to BlackBerry, more than 7 million Android/iOS device owners have already registered to receive more details about the app. BlackBerry originally attempted to launch the app last month, but ran into trouble with the rollout and postponed it.
Lenovo is weighing whether or not it should purchase BlackBerry. The company has signed a non-disclosure agreement with BlackBerry in order to gain access to its financial details, according to the Wall Street Journal. BlackBerry already has an offer on the table from Fairfax Financial Holdings, a private equity firm. Cerebus, another private equity firm, has also signed an NDA with BlackBerry to go over its books. Cerebus, Lenovo, and others have until November 4 to counter Fairfax's offer. Lenovo, based in China, makes laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
BlackBerry today announced a minor update to Facebook for its BlackBerry 10 devices. There are a handful of new features in the application, including the ability to delete status updates and other posts from within the app itself. Facebook for BlackBerry also now lets users preview links before posting them; use the app and view videos in landscape mode; see when chat messages have been read; as well as share wall posts on a friend's wall, in a group, in a list, or in a message. Facebook 10.2.2 for BlackBerry 10 is free to download from the BlackBerry World app store.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Google by consumers who claim the company violated privacy laws. In February 2012, researchers found that Google had bypassed the privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser in order to install cookies on PCs and smartphones. Consumers sued, saying that despite taking steps to prevent cookies from being installed on their machines, Google did so anyway and served them targeted ads. The judge overseeing the case said it was clear that Google circumvented the privacy settings of Safari and IE, but that the plaintiffs were unable to prove they had been harmed. Google was fined $22.5 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last year for its transgression.
Founder and former co-CEO of BlackBerry, Mike Lazaridis, has indicated interest in buying the beleaguered smartphone maker. Lazaridis has increased his stake in the company from 5.7% to 8% this year. According to a security filing, Lazaridis has asked Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners to review his stake and a possible bid. BlackBerry is currently weighing strategic alternatives and already has a $4.7 billion offer on the table from Fairfax Financial Holdings.
Wi-Lan today announced that it has resolved its patent-related suit with BlackBerry. The company sued BlackBerry over Bluetooth and LTE patents, which it alleged were violated in devices such as the BlackBerry Bold, Pearl, Storm, and Torch. Though terms of the agreement were not made public, BlackBerry has agreed to license some of Wi-Lan's patents. Wi-Lan has filed similar suits against Apple and HTC.
Kik recently indicated that it has settled all litigation with BlackBerry. Kik developed a BlackBerry Messenger-like messaging product that works between a number of different platforms, including BlackBerry, Android, and iOS. BlackBerry sued Kik in 2010 and kicked the app out of the BlackBerry World app store for what it called "false and/or misleading statements" that lead to consumer confusion. According to The Globe and Mail. Kik's founder attempted to convince BlackBerry's management to make BBM a cross-platform service, but they refused. That's what spurred the development of the Kik app. Kik currently has about 90 million users, while BlackBerry's BBM service has shrunk to about 60 million users. BlackBerry attempted to release versions of BBM for the Android and iOS platforms just last month, but had to delay the rollout due to problems.
BlackBerry today announced that a new version of Twitter is available to devices running BlackBerry OS10, such as the Z10 and Q10. The updated application adds a number of new features, including the ability to view, create, subscribe, and edit Twitter lists; see trends based on personal interests and location; and scroll through tweeted images in the photo image gallery. The new app also showcases related account profiles, makes it easier to see which tweets have video links, and syncs read DMs across all devices and Twitter accounts. Twitter 10.2.1 is free to download from the BlackBerry World app store.
Cerberus Capital Management, a private capital investment firm, has expressed interest in BlackBerry, according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal. Cerberus is looking to sign a confidentiality agreement with BlackBerry so it can more fully assess the company's potential. BlackBerry is courting private equity companies in hopes of salvaging itself. It already has one offer on the table from Fairfax Financial, totaling some $4.7 billion. When asked to comment, BlackBerry said, "We do not intend to disclose further developments with the respect to the process until we approve a specific transaction or otherwise conclude the review of strategic alternatives."
BlackBerry has made unlocked versions of its smartphones available for sale through its U.S. web store. The Z10 and Q10 are both available in either black or white. The Z10, which has a 4.2-inch touch screen, costs $449, and the Q10, which has a QWERTY keyboard, costs $549. BlackBerry is sitting on $1 billion in unsold Z10 inventory and may be taken private by a group of equity bankers led by Fairfax Financial.
T-Mobile today said that it plans to cease offering BlackBerry phones at its retail stores. It will continue to offer them online and ship them directly to customers. The company said that, "Keeping stock in the retail distribution system was inefficient," according to David Carey, T-Mobile's executive vice president for corporate services. Carey noted that there is little demand for BlackBerries and most purchases are made by businesses. Earlier this week, BlackBerry announced that it had signed a letter of intent with Fairfax Financial that could lead to a sale of the company to a consortium of private bankers. BlackBerry said it will take a $1 billion charge in order to write-down inventory of unsold Z10 smartphones and slash 4,700 jobs.
BlackBerry has signed preliminary paperwork with a consortium of equity companies that could lead to the company going private, reports the Globe and Mail. Fairfax Financial Holdings has cobbled together a handful of companies and offered $9 per share for BlackBerry, valuing the smartphone maker at about $4.7 billion. "BlackBerry has fallen on hard times recently, but we have every confidence it will be successful again," said Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa. "We're trying to make sure it remains in whole in Canada. We're looking at any possibility for the good of the company, its customers and its employees." BlackBerry announced that it is exploring strategic options for the business following poor adoption of its BlackBerry 10 platform.
BlackBerry has paused its distribution of BlackBerry Messenger for the Android and iOS platforms. The app, originally scheduled to be released this weekend, was leaked (for Android) just ahead of its official release. According to BlackBerry, the leaked version is causing problems and forced BlackBerry to cease offering the app. Customers who've already downloaded the iOS version will continue to be able to use it, but BlackBerry is going to disable the leaked version of BBM for Android. BlackBerry said it will begin a staggered, country-by-country rollout of a new version of BBM for Android when it is ready, and will then also make the iOS version available once more. BBM is BlackBerry's over-the-top messaging service.
BlackBerry today announced massive job cuts amidst a large loss for its second fiscal quarter. The company expects to write down $1 billion in unsold Z10 smartphone inventory and post a loss of between $950 and $995 million. The company said it sold 3.7 million devices during its second fiscal quarter, but the bulk of them were its older BlackBerry 7 devices, and not its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones. As a result, it will layoff 40% of its global work force, or about 4,500 employees. After the cuts, BlackBerry will be left with 7,000 employees, about half what it was two years ago. Further, BlackBerry said it plans to make changes to its business. The company said it will "refocus on the enterprise and prosumer market." It will consolidate its hardware portfolio from six devices to four, including two high-end devices and two entry-level devices. BlackBerry announced earlier this month that it is exploring its strategic options, including a sale of the company, whether in parts or as a whole.
BlackBerry let us spend a few moments with the new Z30, its 5-inch phablet looking to take on today's super phones. Here are our initial impressions.
Verizon Wireless is the first U.S. network operator to throw its support behind the BlackBerry Z30. The company announced via its Twitter account that the Z30 is coming to its network soon.
BlackBerry is preparing to make deep cuts to its staffing, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The company is looking to reduce its headcount by as much as 40% by the end of the year as it tries to get a handle on costs amid poor sales of its devices. A BlackBerry spokesperson said, "Organizational moves will continue to occur to ensure we have the right people in the right roles to drive new opportunities in mobile computing," but declined to comment on the severity of the job cuts. BlackBerry is exploring strategic alternatives and may sell all or pieces of the company to investors. The sales process is expected to take place within a few weeks and has already drawn some interest from private equity firms. Just today, BlackBerry announced the Z30 smartphone and the availability of its BBM messaging service for Android and iOS devices.
BlackBerry today announced that its popular BlackBerry Messenger application will be available to both Android and iOS devices later this week. The Android version will reach the Google Play Store on September 21, and the iOS version will reach the iTunes App Store September 22. With BBM, Android and iOS users will be able to send instant messages to existing BlackBerry users as well as one another. Some of the features include the ability to share notes or files; conduct group chats; and post status updates. The application generates a unique PIN for each user that is used instead of phone numbers or email addresses for identification and messaging. BlackBerry says BBM messages are delivered instantly and offer read reports so users know that their message was not only received, but read as well. BBM for Android and iOS will be free to download this weekend.
BlackBerry today announced the Z30, a new smartphone running BlackBerry OS 10.2 that has a 5.0-inch Super AMOLED 720p HD display and a dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with quad-core Adreno graphics. The Z30 features stereo speakers and BlackBerry Natural Sound, which the company says improves the quality of BBM Voice and BBM Video chats. BlackBerry is using what it calls the BlackBerry Paratek Antenna, a new antenna design that improves voice and data performance in low-coverage areas. The Z30 also boasts 25 hours of active use thanks to the large, 2,880mAh battery. Other hardware features include an 8-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel user-facing camera; LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi, and GPS; and 16GB of on-board storage with support for microSD cards up to 64GB. The BlackBerry 10.2 operating system makes some changes to BlackBerry Hub, which now learns which conversations and social media messages are most important to the owner and prioritizes them. BlackBerry Messenger now provides previews of incoming messages as they arrive, even when using other apps. The previews can be dismissed or opened. The BlackBerry Z30 will first go on sale in the U.K. and Middle East later this month. It is expected to reach other regions before the holidays. BlackBerry said that BlackBerry OS 10.2 will be made available to the Z10, Q10, and Q5 smartphones in October.
C Spire Wireless today announced plans to sell the BlackBerry Q10 in the near future. Exact pricing and availability details will be shared soon.
Private investors are eyeing BlackBerry and its assets, but not the entire company, reports Reuters. Several equity firms have signed non-disclosure agreements with BlackBerry in recent weeks to explore acquisition possibilities, though Reuters' sources say it is likely the company will be broken up and sold in pieces. Private equity firms are looking at BlackBerry's operating system and the patents surrounding its keyboards, in particular. One of BlackBerry's largest investors, Fairfax Financial Holdings, has met with other financial firms in hopes of finding a way to take the entire company private, but it holds only about 10% of the firm. Reuters says the sales process is expected to begin within a few weeks. BlackBerry announced last month its intent to "explore strategic options" after its BlackBerry 10 operating system and handset failed to generate interest among consumers.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that BlackBerry's board is pushing for a fast auction process to sell all or part of the company by November. The company announced just last month that it was officially "exploring strategic alternatives." Microsoft was seen by many analysts as a potential buyer, but this week they announced plans to buy most of Nokia instead.
Sprint today announced that it will start selling the BlackBerry Q10 in August 30th for $200 with contract.
BlackBerry today announced that it has formed a committee to evaluate the firm's strategic alternatives moving forward. According to BlackBerry, the list of alternatives the company plans to consider include possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale to a third party, or other possible transactions. The special committee members include Barbara Stymiest, Thorsten Heins (BlackBerry's CEO), Richard Lynch, and Bert Nordberg, and will be chaired by Timothy Dattels. BlackBerry did not place a deadline on when it might make a decision about its future. BlackBerry launched the BlackBerry 10 platform earlier this year, and sales of its new smartphones have not caught on as the company hoped.
WhatsApp today indicated that a new feature is headed to its Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone applications: voice messages. The updated WhatsApp application will allow smartphone owners to record and send voice messages to other WhatsApp users with a single tap. The app is smart enough to switch input from the regular microphone to the speakerphone, depending on how the person is holding the phone, and automatically sends voice messages as soon as they are finished recording. There is no limit to how long the messages can be. WhatsApp said the feature should be available to all 300 million of its users within 24 hours. Other over-the-top messaging apps, such as Skype, have added similar functionality in recent months.
Google today announced a new tool that it hopes will improve the experience of sharing YouTube videos from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to a television set. Chromecast resembles a USB thumb drive, but plugs into any HDMI port on the back of a TV set. Chromecast accesses the internet via Wi-Fi. Android, iOS, and Chrome devices can then see the Cast button, which appears in the YouTube app, and push whatever video they are watching to Chromecast. The Chromecast device will turn the TV set on and automatically switch it to the proper input. The video will then play automatically. Pressing the Cast button again in the app on a smartphone will cease playing the video on the TV and bring it back to the phone. The Chromecast offers similar, but much improved, functionality to last year's Nexus Q living room device. The Chromecast works with content that is in the cloud, such as Google Play movies, Pandora music, and other third-party content sources. It does not pass content that is stored on a smartphone's local storage to the TV for viewing. It works with Android, Chrome, and iOS, but not BlackBerry or Windows Phone. Chromecast is available today for $35. It can be purchased from the Google Play Store.