NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I still remember that day close to the year 2000 market top when I wasfirst outfitted with a BlackBerry. It was a very liberatingexperience. I was no longer tethered to my desk for late officedinners, and traveling wasn't equivalent to being in dark territory.In 2002, BlackBerry ( BBRY) (the company then called Research in Motion) transitioned to GSM (Global System for Mobile) and the email-only devicebecame a phone. Color, apps and touchscreen followed, but some thingstook too long. The dramatic lead BlackBerry built up until 2007rapidly started crashing down in 2009 and 2010.
In record time, Android has now grown to 70% market share, iOS 21%,and Microsoft ( MSFT) and BlackBerry now share part of the remaining 9% of themarket. It's last call for BlackBerry. How will this end? I think I know how. But before I tell you, there are two keyobservations I have made before that are necessary to repeat and expand upon now: 1. Why on Earth did BlackBerry launch a non-keyboard device first? I have yet to hear of anyone waiting for a non-keyboard BlackBerry.If you were willing to sacrifice a keyboard in your smartphoneexperience, you most likely switched to iPhone, Android or WindowsPhone a long time ago already.
If you are wondering why the reception to the non-keyboard BlackBerryis a bit lukewarm, you shouldn't. It really shouldn't take a rocketscientist to figure this out. One wonders if BlackBerry does any market research. If it had doneany, and the market research weren't fake or otherwise deliberatelyfalsified by some lazy pollster, the company would know what the rest of usknow: 99% of BlackBerry users remain on the platform for one simplereason, the keyboard.
BlackBerry will never be remembered for the non-keyboard version. Thekeyboard version should be available in the U.S. by July or August, andit had better be good -- 75 million users are waiting for it. Incontrast, I can't think of 75 thousand people waiting for thenon-keyboard version. 2. BlackBerry can't break into the market using the traditionalcarrier-contract model. There are some people, especially among developers and otheradventurous influencers in places such as Silicon Valley, who would beinterested in giving the all-new BB 10 platform a try. They would dothis without getting rid of their existing Android or iPhone device --either because they swap SIM cards with high frequency, or becausethey carry multiple devices simultaneously anyway.
The fact that BlackBerry does not sell unlocked carrier-neutralsmartphones directly to developers and influencers is likely to costit dearly in the market. It basically disqualifies it in places suchas Silicon Valley. Very bad -- and totally unnecessary -- move.BlackBerry is trying to bypass the influencers and go straight for themasses. For a product like this, it has tended to be a failedstrategy. So what will happen to BlackBerry? In brief, it will most likely be acquired. The mobile computing gameis too big for the even bigger companies to allow BlackBerry to remainindependent. BlackBerry has many strong assets that several parties could exploitand integrate into their operations. For starters: 1. 75 million user base, including the valuable large enterpriseusers. Peanuts for Apple and Google, but material for Microsoft,Amazon, Nokia ( NOK), HP ( HPQ) and Samsung. 2. Patents and other intellectual property across several hardwareand software technologies. 3. Server software that is proven, secure and cross-platform. 4. A leading automobile infotainment platform with QNX. 5. A strong operating system with what most people agree has a greatuser interface (BB 10).