BlackBerry Begs for More Time

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I was recently accused of being too hard on beleaguered tech giant BlackBerry (BBRY) following the company's disastrous first-quarter earnings results, which sent its stock plummeting more than 27%.

If the results weren't bad enough, management also figured it was a good idea to change how the company reports important performance details such as unit shipments and subscriber totals for its high-margin services business.

So, with declining performance coinciding with management's new stance on disclosure and transparency, investors need to ask a very important question, what is there left in BlackBerry?

In fact, the only good to have come out of BlackBerry's recent earnings results is that Wall Street has become more realistic about this company's recovery potential and the pace at which it will happen.

BlackBerry has its own pace, however. On Tuesday, at the company's annual shareholder meeting, the company's CEO, Thorsten Heins, asked investors for more time -- suggesting that the company is in the "second phase" of a three-stage plan to restore BlackBerry back to health. He said that the first phase involved cutting costs and streamlining operations. The second phase is what the company is now in, which includes rolling out BlackBerry 10 and pushing out new devices.

In the same breath, though, Heins admitted that he underestimated the competition and how fierce was the smartphone market. I can't say that investors will be inspired to learn that the company's CEO grossly miscalculated the strength of the leaders of its core market , namely Apple ( AAPL) and Google ( GOOG).

Along similar lines, it was also clear that BlackBerry didn't fully appreciate the challenges involved in getting carriers like AT&T ( T) and Verizon ( VZ) onboard with the company's strategy. BlackBerry believed "If you build it, they will sell." The carriers, meanwhile, only had an interest in selling what already sells well. These were Apple and Android devices.

Remarkably, though, Heins vehemently defended the notion that the launch of BB10 was a "disaster," as an investor suggested during the question and answer session of the meeting. Heins responded saying that "there were many lessons learned," including fighting to get carriers to give shelf space to BB10 devices, but he was adamant about the launch not being a disaster.

This, however, didn't stop BlackBerry from firing Richard Piasentin, who served as the company's vice president of sales. Investors learned Wednesday morning that Piasentin was the first of possibly many more casualties of the poor traction seen in BlackBerry's new BB10 devices. Interestingly, BlackBerry wasted no time throwing one of its key executives under the bus while simultaneously pleading to investors for more time.

Piasentin is one of several more midlevel managers that the company plans to axe as part of the company's continued restructuring efforts, which so far seen as much as 5,000 layoffs over the past fiscal year. This would indicate, however, that "phase one" is not yet over. And there is some overlap with "phase two." Investors have to wonder whether the company's turnaround plans are indeed on track as management claims.

At the shareholder meeting, management also used terms like "build and invest in the future" and talked about focusing on "vertical specific opportunities." These were certainly interesting choices of words. Aside from the fact that management stopped short of offering any sort of detail regarding these ideals, I can't ignore that there is nothing in BlackBerry's DNA that suggests that this company is able to execute to produce shareholder value.

What also stood out during the meeting was that Heins said: "While many will judge our short-term success on unit sales in a single quarter, we are not a device-only company. Creating value for shareholders does not involve being everything to everyone."

Admittedly, suggesting that "We are not a device-only company" was the statement that caught my attention. This is while offering a glimpse into "phase three," suggesting that the company will be a type of mobile integrator -- offering secure mobile computing platform for a variety of endpoints. Again, Heins didn't go into much detail. But it implies a new focus -- reminiscent of when Apple's CEO Tim Cook suggested that Apple was a software company.

Since Cook's statement, Apple rededicated itself to services -- launching iTunes Radio, a redesigned iOS 7 and launching Siri in automobile dashboards. If BlackBerry is able to offset its hardware weakness by focusing on services, then the company has a chance.

This could be viewed as subjective interpretation, but it certainly seems as if BlackBerry has finally shunned its former stance of "we know best." While it's still frustrating to see the company's self-inflicted wounds, management nonetheless seems more willing to make adjustments and explore new ideas. In that regard, Heins does deserve more time. But it's running out.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Richard Saintvilus is a private investor with an information technology and engineering background and the founder and producer of the investor Web site Saint's Sense. He has been investing and trading for over 15 years. He employs conservative strategies in assessing equities and appraising value while minimizing downside risk. His decisions are based in part on management, growth prospects, return on equity and price-to-earnings as well as macroeconomic factors. He is an investor who seeks opportunities whether on the long or short side and believes in changing positions as information changes.

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