BlackBerry CEO Chen slams T-Mobile for enticing BB users to switch to iPhone

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO John Chen struck back hard at T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) for sending a promotion to the carrier's BlackBerry customers urging them to switch from BlackBerry to an iPhone 5s. Chen said he was "outraged" over the promotion and puzzled as to why BlackBerry was not informed of the promotion beforehand.

Late week T-Mobile sent a promotion to its BlackBerry customers offering the iPhone 5s for $0 down. The carrier described the effort as a "great offer for BlackBerry customers." However, some BlackBerry fans rejected the offer, lashing out with tweets at T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who is active on Twitter. Legere subsequently responded that "We give our customers choices, but you don't have to give up your #loyalty. We will continue to support" BlackBerry phones.

But Legere's tweets on the topic did not appear to mollify BlackBerry's Chen, who wrote a scathing response of his own: "Late last week, T-Mobile emailed an offer targeting BlackBerry users on its network asking them to switch their BlackBerry devices to a competitor's smartphone," Chen wrote in a company blog post on Tuesday. "As we were never told of their plans in advance, I can only guess that T-Mobile thought its 'great offer for BlackBerry customers' would be well received. T-Mobile could not have been more wrong."

In the blog post, Chen thanked BlackBerry's loyal customers for their commitment. "By expressing your outrage directly to T-Mobile ‎through tweets, calls and comments in the media and on blog posts, you sent a powerful message that T-Mobile could not ignore," he wrote. "Your partnership with our brand is appreciated by all of us at BlackBerry, and draws a sharp contrast with the behavior of our longtime business partner."

"I can assure you that we are outraged too," Chen wrote. "What puzzles me more is that T-Mobile did not speak with us before or after they launched this clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion."

The BlackBerry chief also promised a special offer for affected customers: "For our loyal customers on the T-Mobile network, know that we have an offer in the works designed especially for you. Watch this space for an update very soon."

"Finally, to T-Mobile, I would like to remind you that our long-standing partnership was once productive and profitable for both BlackBerry and T-Mobile," Chen wrote. "I hope we can find a way forward that allows us to serve our shared customers once again. Notwithstanding the current challenge, we remain very excited about BlackBerry's future."

"Customers can purchase some of the latest BlackBerry devices from T-Mobile--including the Q10 and Z10 that we have carried since they launched," a T-Mobile spokesperson said in a statement. "They can buy and direct ship devices from more than 3,000 T-Mobile retail stores and as an additional courtesy to our BlackBerry customers, we will begin offering free expedited shipping of BlackBerry devices by Friday. Customers can also bring unlocked BlackBerry devices to T-Mobile. We are happy to be a BlackBerry partner and apologize for any confusion."

According to figures released earlier this month from research firm comScore, BlackBerry captured just 3.4 percent of the U.S. smartphone market as of December 2013, down from 3.8 percent in September. As of December, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android had 51.5 percent, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS had 41.8 percent and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone had 3.1 percent share.

Globally, research firm IDC said earlier this month that BlackBerry captured just 0.6 percent of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter.

Relations between T-Mobile and BlackBerry have grown frostier in the past six months. In September 2013, T-Mobile said it planned to stop carrying BlackBerry smartphones in its stores and instead would ship the devices directly to customers who want them. David Carey, executive vice president for corporate services, told Reuters that "keeping stock in the retail distribution system was inefficient" because BlackBerry phones had not generated enough demand.

Since becoming CEO in November, Chen has shaken up the company's management and refocused its proprieties around the company's legacy enterprise business. He is also focused on the company's BlackBerry Messenger platform and using QNX-based embedded technologies for M2M.

BlackBerry recently forged a five-year manufacturing deal with Foxconn for the contract manufacturer to jointly develop and manufacture some of BlackBerry's new lower-end devices and manage the inventory associated with those devices. Chen told CNET in January that the first Foxconn-produced phone will be priced under $200. He also hinted at another higher-end, smartphone that would include a physical keyboard, which BlackBerry would design in-house. Chen has emphasized in recent interviews the importance of returning to BlackBerry's roots, which include physical keyboards.

For more:
- see this BlackBerry blog post
- see this BGR article
- see this N4BB post

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