On Monday, BlackBerry suggested that it was open to various options in order to keep the company moving forward. Those options include, but aren’t limited to, a sale, a joint venture, a strategic partnership or any other feasible plan to help the once mighty smartphone leader. It’s too bad we’re in 2013 because an interesting plan — along with a billion dollars in commitments — were poised for a BlackBerry takeover in 2012.
The full plan can be seen here on SlideShare where Robin Chan, an Angel Investor at Time Machine Ventures, posted it after BlackBerry’s official statement to explore strategic alternatives was published. Called Project BBX, the plan was secretive and bold:
Over a year ago, I helped form a secret product and engineering team based Silicon Valley that was keenly interested in taking over the company. We wanted to move the company and its passionate customers to a custom enterprise tier of Android. We saw a troubled company that could be saved.
Interestingly, part of the plan Chan shares mirrors the expectation I presented in a 2012 prediction post: Namely, that BlackBerry ceases to make hardware and focuses on services.
Why do that? Simple: Margins in the hardware business are low but the margins on BlackBerry’s services are sky-high by comparison, as shown in this chart from the slide deck:
I never suggested that BlackBerry use Android but Project BBX relied in part on Android and pushing BlackBerry services and security in the enterprise with the devices. The plan is likened to IBM’s comeback when it left the PC business and focused instead on services.
For Project BBX, hardware would always be secondary. Ironically, it suggested a small keyboarded phone and a larger full-screen device; exactly what BlackBerry has on the market today with its Q10 and Z10. Tablets were a long-shot in the plan and sound similar to what BlackBerry offered in the Playbook: a device that tethers to a BlackBerry phone for its secure connection.
We know now that Project BBX wasn’t successful. BlackBerry itself, however, is still a project that’s very much in progress. It’s a question of what plan is the right one for the company as its competitors continue to distance themselves by moving forward as BlackBerry tries to find its way.