NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I still remember that day close to the year 2000 market top when I was first outfitted with a BlackBerry. It was a very liberating experience. I was no longer tethered to my desk for late office dinners, 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 device became a phone. Color, apps and touchscreen followed, but some things took too long. The dramatic lead BlackBerry built up until 2007 rapidly 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 the market. It's last call for BlackBerry. How will this end? I think I know how. But before I tell you, there are two key observations 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 smartphone experience, you most likely switched to iPhone, Android or Windows Phone a long time ago already.
If you are wondering why the reception to the non-keyboard BlackBerry is a bit lukewarm, you shouldn't. It really shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. One wonders if BlackBerry does any market research. If it had done any, and the market research weren't fake or otherwise deliberately falsified by some lazy pollster, the company would know what the rest of us know: 99% of BlackBerry users remain on the platform for one simple reason, the keyboard.
BlackBerry will never be remembered for the non-keyboard version. The keyboard version should be available in the U.S. by July or August, and it had better be good -- 75 million users are waiting for it. In contrast, I can't think of 75 thousand people waiting for the non-keyboard version. 2. BlackBerry can't break into the market using the traditional carrier-contract model. There are some people, especially among developers and other adventurous influencers in places such as Silicon Valley, who would be interested in giving the all-new BB 10 platform a try. They would do this without getting rid of their existing Android or iPhone device -- either because they swap SIM cards with high frequency, or because they carry multiple devices simultaneously anyway.
The fact that BlackBerry does not sell unlocked carrier-neutral smartphones directly to developers and influencers is likely to cost it dearly in the market. It basically disqualifies it in places such as Silicon Valley. Very bad -- and totally unnecessary -- move. BlackBerry is trying to bypass the influencers and go straight for the masses. For a product like this, it has tended to be a failed strategy. So what will happen to BlackBerry? In brief, it will most likely be acquired. The mobile computing game is too big for the even bigger companies to allow BlackBerry to remain independent. BlackBerry has many strong assets that several parties could exploit and integrate into their operations. For starters: 1. 75 million user base, including the valuable large enterprise users. Peanuts for Apple and Google, but material for Microsoft, Amazon, Nokia ( NOK), HP ( HPQ) and Samsung. 2. Patents and other intellectual property across several hardware and 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 great user interface (BB 10).