BlackBerry director envisions future as a 'niche company'

One of the BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) directors charged with looking at strategic alternatives for the company, including a possible sale, said BlackBerry can survive as a "niche company" in smartphones. However, he said there are "subsets" that the company should sell.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bert Nordberg did not rule out a sale or strategic partnership, and also did not say which "subsets" could be sold off. Nordberg is the former CEO of Sony Ericsson, and he joined BlackBerry's board in February. He is part of the five-member committee exploring strategic alternatives that BlackBerry formed in August.

The Journal recently reported that BlackBerry might spin off its BlackBerry Messenger service. 

BlackBerry has bet its future on its new BlackBerry 10 smartphone operating system, but the release of the company's BB10-powered Z10 and Q10 smartphones has done little to reverse the company's market share declines. Analysts have said the BB10 ecosystem can't compete with those from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).

Nordberg said the board knows that the company has invested a great deal of time and money in its enterprise business, hardware functionality and device security, but he said it might be a challenge to compete with larger ecosystems.

"I think BlackBerry is able to survive as a niche company. But being a niche company means deciding to be a niche company," he said. "Historically, BlackBerry has had larger ambitions. But battling giants like Apple, Google and Samsung is tough."

The comments are a dramatic reversal from statements BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins made a year ago, when he said BlackBerry had "a clear shot at being the No. 3" mobile platform in the world. In the second quarter, sales of smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system outpaced BlackBerry device sales worldwide for the first time ever, according to research firm Gartner.

Nordberg said he thinks his inclusion on BlackBerry's special committee "has to do with my recent experience selling Ericsson's (NASDAQ:ERIC) stake in Sony Ericsson to Sony." Nordberg also said he thinks his view of BlackBerry's place in the market is shared by the rest of the board.

In other BlackBerry news, video emerged of BBM running on Google's Android. The video showed the ability to transfer contact data via NFC using Android Beam. BlackBerry has said it will release versions of BBM for Android and iOS this summer.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this The Verge article

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