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BlackBerry’s race is run. Reports say it plans to lay off nearly half its workforce by the end of the year as it plans to sell or dismember itself to give some return to its shareholders.

Apple has made all the running this week with its new iPhones. They have been criticised as offering too little too late, but they will keep Apple in the smartphone race.

BlackBerry too announced a new phone this week = the 5 inch Z30. But it looks like it’s all too late. The Wall Street Journal, which has good contacts inside the Canadian company, is reporting that BlackBerry is intending to lay off as many as 40% of its staff by the end of 2013, almost certainly as a sale of the business.

The layoffs will occur across the business, cutting costs to make the struggling company more attractive to potential buyers. BlackBerry clearly signalled its intentions last month, when it announced an executive committee to examine all options from privatisation to outright sale to breaking up the business and selling the bits for whatever they will realise.

There now seems no way out for BlackBerry. The new Z10 and Q10 phones in announced earlier this year were initially well received, and it briefly appeared the company would pull through, but sales have been disappointing and not sufficient to turn things around. The share price, above $80 in 2009, has been hovering around $10 for the last few months, valuing the company at US$5 billion. Some analysts believe a sale could net as much as $14 or even $20 a share – but the sooner the better.

BlackBerry’s fortunes have not been helped by Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business, which is likely to make Windows Phone a more viable alternative in the corporate world that BlackBerry once dominated. There may be room for three major smartphone operating architectures, but not four.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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