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Lost in Transition: BlackBerry's Repeated Calls for Patience

July 11, 2013

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins

Thorsten Heins, chief executive officer of BlackBerry, speaking on a June 28 conference call, asked for patience. “BlackBerry 10 is still in the early stages of its transition,” he said. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Listen to BlackBerry's annual shareholder meetings from the past few years and you'll hear a familiar message: Please be patient. We're in transition.

When CEO Thorsten Heins on Tuesday urged investors to give the company more time to allow new products to gain traction, he stated that "BlackBerry is still in the early phases of our transition."

Compare that with last year, when Heins told shareholders that “we are working around the clock to successfully complete the transition path that we are on.”

The year before, then co-CEO James Balsillie told investors at the annual meeting that he and his executive team were "closely managing this transition" and "positioning the company for continued future success."

At this rate, it's hard to know when the transition started, and more importantly, if it will ever end.

The company did not comment directly for this story, but pointed us to statements Heins made this week at the annual general meeting.

''Our transformation is ongoing and it is in no way easy, as many challenges are still remaining in front of us,'' he said. ''But, we are realistic about what is required to move our transformation forward in a timely manner towards the success.''

Many shareholders appear to have tired of the routine. The stock has fallen 22 percent this year as the company contends with weaker-than-expected sales of its new Z10 touch-screen phone. BlackBerry's global subscriber base has slipped to 72 million last quarter, down from 76 million and 79 million in the preceding quarters.

The company's stumble has also allowed Microsoft to sneak into third place, alongside Apple and Google, for many corporate technology buyers.

BlackBerry can continue to ask for patience, but shareholders and consumers are clearly running out of it.

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