No, Facebook shouldn’t buy BlackBerry

By Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on November 1st, 2013

One of the most startling reports of the week was a recent report that BlackBerry tried to sell itself to Facebook.

On its face, it looks absurd.

But when you look at it…no, wait, it’s still absurd.

Plenty of technology companies often make deals that seem bizarre to outsiders. And, often, analysts and observers make the intriguing and counterintuitive argument as to why it’s clever. And, often, that person is me.

But today is not this day.

This would just be stupid.

Let’s play around with the case for buying BlackBerry.

First of all, let’s acknowledge that Facebook has been trying to get into mobile for a very long time, and with little success. Facebook really wants to have a Facebook phone. This is something it should keep pursuing, because mobile is the future (er, actually, the present), and since the biggest platform is made by a rival, it can’t afford the risk of being squeezed out.

Second of all, let’s acknowledge that Facebook has had little success with its phone initiatives so far, and that a big deal for a significant player in the sector might be its answer.

There’s only one problem : BlackBerry makes bad phones that nobody wants to buy. The reason nobody wants to buy these phones is that the software on them is bad. BlackBerry has had many years to try to build a technology platform that can compete with Android and iOS, and all of its efforts have been lacklustre.

But, wait! BlackBerry isn’t just phones, you say. It’s also BlackBerry Messenger.

That’s more interesting. Lots of people love and use BlackBerry Messenger. It’s a great technology. And mobile messaging is clearly a threat/opportunity for Facebook. WhatsApp, the biggest smartphone messaging app, has hundreds of millions of users. It’s clearly a key mobile/social activity that Facebook should be a part of.

But, again, the deal makes no sense. First of all, while lots of people do use BlackBerry Messenger, most people do not. A lot (really, a lot) more people use Facebook than BlackBerry Messenger. If Facebook bought BlackBerry Messenger and wanted people to use it, it would have to push it to people via its regular app. Of course, Facebook is already doing that with its own Messenger app, which is fairly well regarded. So again, it’s really hard to see how buying BlackBerry Messenger would add any value to Facebook. And this is not even to get into the fact that most of the usage that BlackBerry Messenger still gets is from the enterprise, and that BlackBerry Messenger is essentially an enterprise networking business, which Facebook has no interest in and knows nothing about.

So, really. As much as we like to play with left-field ideas, and as much as we like counterintuitive ideas, this one really just doesn’t make sense. At all.