When you're a contrarian investor in companies like BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), you have to put up with a lot. Besides a lot of volatility, BlackBerry has a committed cadre of "career" shorts and naysayers who have no doubt made a LOT of money on the way down, and they often seem almost perturbed by the audacity of the company and its employees for wanting to avoid a breakup, bankruptcy or other such untidy demise. So now that BlackBerry is showing steady progress along its turnaround path and the stock is holding strong in the face of the IBM/Apple "alliance," the shorts are getting really frustrated and testy, and they're starting to make increasingly outrageous and desperate claims. They must see what the other chart watchers see, and for them it's not pretty.
One such narrative is that the Passport smartphone - set to be launched in September - is already being panned by the press and bloggers on the web. "It's already a colossal failure!" shriek the shorts, clearly seeing the writing on the wall (or the fingers on the keyboard) and scrambling to spread FUD. You can read these comments in the replies to my and others' recent articles about the Passport. It really started to bug me. I guess that's what the shorts wanted - to bug me. And of course (a far higher priority for them I'm sure) somehow cause BBRY stock to become zero, and force the entire town of Waterloo, Ontario, onto Canadian Welfare. Oh, how the life of a career short must be full of misery, waking up each trading day praying for people to be handed pink slips! Ok, back to the Passport.
To be clear, the Passport is not yet released even for the media, and there have been very few hands-on reviews of the device. But there have been plenty of "first looks" and other preview-style articles in which the authors have been anything but shy about sharing their opinions and predictions.
Let Google Decide
I'm a big fan of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and search engines in general, and figured I'd leave it up to Mountain View to provide a definitive answer to the question at hand: "how is the BlackBerry Passport being received by the media and other pundits?" I only had about an hour to do the experiment, so I carefully analyzed the first 7 pages of Google Search results using the search term "BlackBerry Passport." I just needed a statistically-significant sampling.
If the Passport were being roundly panned, then it would clearly show up in the top results. I grouped any Passport reviews and articles I found into three categories: Positive, Neutral and Negative. Positive reviews were optimistic about the Passport's chances, or at the very least hopeful that the new device could assist BlackBerry in its comeback. Neutral articles contained mixed views, and negative pieces were either outright insulting or otherwise skeptical. I omitted any pieces that were purely informational in nature, for example just reporting on the device's specifications. The results weren't even close:
The above chart shows the results, but please be aware that Google Search results change quite often, and you may get different results when you try this on your own. But the overall distribution of Positive to Neutral to Negative won't likely change much.
Positive articles included those from IntoMobile, IT Pro, Wonderful Engineering, ZDNet, Load The Game, CNET, The Motley Fool, SlashGear, Gigaom, Know Your Mobile, International Business Times, OSNews, Phone Arena, Business News Daily, Redmond Pie, and Business Insider.
Common threads from across the positive reviews were:
- The word "innovation" (especially related to the keyboard)
- The square screen providing more viewing area
- The potential to be a catalyst for BlackBerry's growth/turnaround
- Appeal to business users
By the way, that's another point the shorts like to harp on - that the phone will only appeal to "business users" and not consumers. But the lines are definitely blurred, are they not? The only consumers that don't really do the kind of "business" that the Passport supports (email, viewing documents, etc.) are kids and retirees. I don't exactly think BlackBerry needs to whack a home run with these demographics to have the Passport be a stunning success, even though there is potential for it to become a fashion statement in non-business circles. One could also argue that the phone's large keyboard and big screen will appeal to the aging Baby Boomer set.
I should point out that two of the five negative reviews - those from Digital Trends and TechCrunch - were written the very same day BlackBerry unveiled the Passport, way before more details and hands-on opportunities were available. Once people had more information and a chance to actually see and touch the device - and watch the videos - they were far more inclined to be positive, as the data demonstrates. The bottom line is that the more people learn about the Passport, the more likely they like it. I expect this trend to only continue.
I'm sure we'll see the career shorts cherry picking through the blogosphere to pull out more negative reviews and post them in the comments below, and no doubt they'll find a few. But for every negative review or first look they can dig out, odds are there are 3-4 positive ones that they will conveniently ignore.
Comments also overwhelmingly positive
If the bloggers and influencers are by and large positive about the Passport, it would make sense that rank-and-file consumers are equally sanguine. So I confirmed this by quickly analyzing the comments from the two CNET pieces I link to above, one positive and the other neutral. By a very similar 3 to 1 margin, those leaving comments were positive on the Passport.
A cursory glance through the comments sections of the other articles above - positive, neutral, and negative - confirmed a 3 to 1 positive bias.
Yes, it does fit in your pocket
Another bit of desperate hilarity from the shorts is that the Passport is so huge that it can't fit in anyone's pocket. But this is simply false, as shown here. The company did a comprehensive "pocket test" to ensure the device can fit anywhere but the pockets of a Liliputian. Keep trying guys!
The Passport doesn't need to outsell the new iPhone or Galaxy Note to be a massive success for BlackBerry and to be just another part of the company's comeback. The early indications are that influencers, bloggers and consumers really like the concept, and are applauding BlackBerry for innovating and thinking outside of the box. In fact ValueWalk thinks BlackBerry is already stealing marketshare even before the Passport is released for sale. To be fair, the Passport will need to ultimately prove itself in the marketplace, and BlackBerry needs to put the requisite marketing muscle behind this remarkable piece of technology.
Now that the matter of the Passport's early reception in the marketplace has been settled, I'll be curious to see what the shorts come up with next to try an unnerve BlackBerry long share holders. Never a dull moment along the road of BlackBerry's comeback.
Oh one last thought. I wouldn't be surprised if BlackBerry were to announce corporate pre-order numbers for the Passport prior to (or at) the September launch. Although I can't seem to find it now, I stumbled upon a Blackberry Passport-related Facebook page the other day where the poster mentioned he/she was aware of "25 Lahks of corporate Passport pre-orders". I found this completely unverifiable claim notable only because of the units of measure mentioned. A Lahk is an Indian unit of measure equal to 100,000. 2.5 million pre-orders for the Passport from Global 2000 customers wouldn't surprise me at all - that represents less than 5% of the 63 million total employees in the Global 2000, most of which are BlackBerry customers. I expect this news release (as well as one announcing some type of major partnership, the one that John Chen alluded to in response to the IBM/Apple deal) within the next couple of weeks.
Please do your own due diligence prior to investing. This article contains my opinions only, which should not form the basis of an investment decision.
Disclosure: The author is long BBRY, JCP, AAPL. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.