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قديم 12-21-2013, 10:32 PM
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افتراضي The Market Ticker - On BlackBerry

 


Two things of **te happened yesterday with regard to BlackBerry.

First, the company an**unced quarterly results.losha - www.losha.net

The GAAP loss was utterly e**rmous as the firm wrote down a whole plethora of assets formerly considered "sacrosanct" from the balance sheet perspective, and it appears they essentially zeroed inventory-as-asset as well. That may have been e**ugh standing alone to send the shorts scampering to get out, because new CEOs tend to get a "free pass" for a quarter on this sort of "kitchen sink" thing, and if they wrote down assets below where they are eventually valued this means that in some future quarter the firm will report a monstrous GAAP earnings beat (in dollars per share, **t cents) and it will literally come out of **where without warning, crushing anyone dumb e**ugh to be short the stock at the time.

Here's the interesting thing though -- there were plenty of so-called analysts who also expected a monstrous cash burn (as much as $800 million!) which would put the firm on a direct course to receivership within a year or so.

**pe -- cash used in operations was $77 million, or 1/10th of what some on the street were screaming was about to happen.

In other words the company remains able to manage its cash flow.

They also an**unced a 5-year manufacturing deal with Foxconn, which will essentially remove the risk associated with device inventory from the company going forward, and as part of that they intend to introduce a BB10 device into the Indonesian Market in early 2014.

I'm ** fan of Foxconn, but my dislike of them is environmental and labor-related, **t business-related. In short this is a smart move from a business perspective and if I was in the left seat at BlackBerry I would have done the same thing.

Chen thinks he can be turning a GAAP profit by 2016. I think he may accomplish it in 12 months.

They also appear to be moving to an "operating subsidiary" model for the business, which I find to be very positive. In short you have BBM (the messenger app) which has gained 40 million users in the last couple of months on Android and IOS along with being an**unced for pre-installation on a number of Android handsets, BES10 for mobile device management, QNX "in other places" (primarily cars where it is the dominant operating system already) and of course handsets.

In a couple of interviews Chen also talked about how the BB10 handsets are the most-secure and in fact are simply, from many perspectives, best-available. They may be maligned by people such as Boy Genius, but objectively, Chen is right.

Let me give one example -- recently one of the folks on *****Berry tore down a Z30. I was very surprised to find that the battery, which is **n-consumer-replaceable, was in fact easily changed as it is connected with a ribbon cable that can be unplugged and re-plugged and the phone was fabulously free of glued-in crap that makes repair difficult or worse. This follows iFixit's teardown of the Z10 which also showed a high degree of repairability.

But you're less-likely to need to tear it down and work on it than other contemporary devices. I have had a Z10 since it's original launch day in the US. For most of its life it has lived in my pocket without a screen protector or case. The rest of the time I've had a cheap TPU plastic wrap-around case on it. The phone is physically and operationally flawless. It doesn't have a scratch on it. BlackBerry, unlike a certain fruit-named company, bothered to recess the screen very slightly from the case, which provides reasonably-decent damage resistance without any help. Samsung does too in the SGS-II, I might add, but Samsung uses much less "material."

The SGS-II I have here similarly comes apart without much drama, but for newer phones it's a different story; even the SGS-III essentially has the display and frame as one piece, which makes it expensive as hell to replace. The iPhones are a **table pain in the ass to just disassemble successfully. **ne of this matters if you consider a $500 device to be a throw-away, but I find that sort of approach offensive -- especially when what's likely to break is the battery (first and foremost) and then things like the screen (from physical damage) and the buttons. I can't count the number of shattered-screen phones I see in people's hands -- it's astounding, really, and speaks to the "throw-away" design that many manufacturers have.

Simply put, BlackBerry doesn't see it that way, and that's good.

Chen has also fired (or "convinced to quit") a whole host of executives at the firm who by my figuring should have been fired months -- or even years ago. Among them are so-called "carrier liason" and "marketing" people who, at least in the United States, failed to either negotiate for timely firmware update releases or demand the right to go around the carriers entirely, along with the utterly pathetic "marketing" attempts made for BB10. This is good; you could replace those people with a monkey and it would be an improvement. If Chen scores a bunch of singles with his replacements the firm will be doing great. If he gets one or two sluggers in there who start hitting grand slams....

The primary charge "against" BlackBerry has been "it's **t Android or Apple, and those are the only two that matter."

Let's delve into this a bit.

Since the earliest releases of BB10 the phones have been able to run some Android apps. When this first became apparent I voiced the opinion that this might well be one of the most-important aspects of the new devices. Sadly the company has done a piss-poor job, and that's being charitable, capitalizing both on that capability and the superior performance and security that BB10 offers.

I suspect this is about to change.

The last two "leaks" of firmware for BB10 phones have allowed the direct loading of Android applications. Formerly you had to "wrap" them via a conversion process into BAR files, which is what BB10 phones use. Both APKs and BARs are simply glorified archives (in fact they're little more than a ZIP file and you can look at their contents them with a ZIP file reader if you'd like) with a specific set of manifests and cryptographic signatures used for verification that tampering hasn't occurred.

Let's first set the baseline here -- 10.2.0.1803, otherwise k**wn as "Release" 10.2.0.429, is amazingly solid and fast. It does **t include direct loading of Android apps, but for a BB10 release that doesn't it is the present gold standard. Several carriers in Europe and Asia have released it for their users, and if you don't need T-Mobile WiFi calling (which only works on their specific firmware loads) this is the general release version I'd be running -- provided you don't want or need the fullest-available Android compatibility. Power management is exemplary as well -- as much as 50% better than earlier versions.

10.2.1.1055, the first "visible" leak with direct APK loading, was **toriously buggy. I ran it for quite a while despite that, but I couldn't recommend it for most people simply because you had to be willing to tolerate more than a reasonable number of little itchy issues -- like some combinations of Android apps that would lock your accounts screen, making it impossible to re-enter a password if you changed it on Facebook or even your email account.

But the leak that just dropped, 10.2.1.1259, is a different matter.

Let's first talk about what doesn't work and isn't fixed, because that's a shorter list. What I've found so far is that the Hub will display "counts" of unread messages that are wrong, although the "spark" (new message indicator) appears to be right. In addition the LTE reselect bug that was in 10.2.0 versions prior to 1803 is **t fixed; the two code branches appear to have been split before that fix was committed to 10.2.0 and whatever was done there hasn't been pulled forward yet. BlackBerry needs to take care of that, especially for Verizon and other LTE + CDMA users. People with HSPA+ service can shut off LTE when **t in use and "care less" as that's a fully-effective means of stopping the excessive battery drain. Finally, I have still managed to provoke the rotation bug in a couple of Android apps -- but it's rare (and before it was **t!)losha - www.losha.net

But the Android side in general is where the news is on this firmware leak.

The performance and compatibility improvements are, to use a single word, stunning.

Load (startup) times have been cut in half or better for many if **t most Android apps. The load times are **w often better than a native Android device. Compatibility has radically improved as well; while there are still a few apps that don't work correctly the list is quite small among those I've tried and use.

To put a **t-so-fine point on it, among the "business" apps I use on a regular basis more than half are **w Android direct-loaded APKs -- including all three major shippers (FedEx, UPS and USPS) and brokerages (Schwab, etc.)

Among my "personal" stuff is SpotOn, Amex, my credit union's app and more -- again, more than half of what I regularly use. Google Maps works if you don't like the native BB10 mapping program (which IMHO is fine, or if you prefer offline Mireo "Don't Panic" is fabulous); you can**t sign into your Play account but other than that it is fully functional. Skymap works. Groupme and Meetup both run perfectly. Torque (the car diag**stic) works. I don't use Viber, but it is reported to be working.

Paid apps won't work until and unless Play Services (which does authentication) is present, and I've **t yet tried to "hack" it in -- it's **t native in this build.

And for those who say that BlackBerry can't get Play because they're **t a member of the "Open Handset Alliance", you're wrong. We **w k**w there is ** contractual prohibition because they just gave a**ther manufacturer permission. The gating factor appears to be passing the compatibility test suite, and I suspect the current leak, while **t "quite there", is also quite close.

There are rumors that this is coming for BlackBerry 10 and in fact the deal is signed. I see ** reason to disbelieve it, particularly given the performance and compatibility enhancements that have shown up between the last two leaks. The progress shown over what is less than a month's time is truly massive.

There were a few things that I couldn't run prior to 10.2.1 on BB10 that I wanted to. 10.2.1.1055, the previous leak, resolved virtually all of that, but the bugs made me choose between them -- but some of the bugs, particularly things like bluetooth stuttering and the account page locking up, were maddening.

This latest leak removes the need to choose and although it's **t bug-free the level of improvement is massive.

With release of 10.2.1 to carriers rumored to be coming in the first week of January I expect the few remaining problems to be resolved by then, and hopefully the LTE battery consumption fix from 1803 has been rolled forward.

** folks, the game isn't over -- and if BlackBerry can deliver devices in the mid-tier of price but with nearly-full (or even full) Android compatibility they will utterly destroy the value proposition that other handset makers have in that segment of the market, particularly when one considers that the US-firm "NSA spying" scandals and the inherently-superior security on these handsets does add additional value.

The shorts ran for cover yesterday in the stock, and I suspect the smart ones did so with good reason.



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