BlackBerry On The Rebound? 10 Hopeful Signs

Signs Of Life?

First, a bit of reality. BlackBerry as we once knew it is dead. But it's springtime, and you don't need to be a hopeless optimist to spot some signs of life in the beleaguered mobile company. Sure, there are the cold hard truths, such a, BlackBerry's mobile OS market share falling to .06. That's even below "Others" according to a recent IDC market research report.

On the financial front, BlackBerry is expected to report gloomy fiscal fourth-quarter earnings before markets open this Friday. Beancounters aren't holding out too much hope for miracles. But despite low expectations, BlackBerry investors such as Almario Alcaraz, are calling the company a "Walking Dead Miracle" – attributing the moniker to new leadership and promising new business opportunities.

As BlackBerry continues the painful transition from a smartphone giant to a much smaller software and services provider, here are 10 hopeful signs BlackBerry might just pull it off.

1. John Chen: A Turnaround CEO?

CEO John Chen has been at the job since November and, unlike his predecessor, he is a BlackBerry outsider. He comes to BlackBerry with a reputation as Mr. Turnaround. During his tenure at struggling companies such as Sybase Chen is credited for taking the firm out of the red and into the black. Chen has already earned early accolades at BlackBerry for his efforts to preserve cash and cut costs and make sure the company maintains an impressive $2.2 billion net cash balance. After all, it may need those billions to stay alive as it works to reinvent itself.

2. Emerging Markets

One of Chen's most notable accomplishments is hammering out a five-year manufacturing deal with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn to make affordable handsets for emerging markets. The idea is that BlackBerry will cede the handset battle in mature markets and instead focus the company's attention on selling Foxconn-made entry-level Z3 handsets in emerging markets such as Indonesia, China, Latin America, Africa and India. In those markets consumers are not hooked on iPhones and Google Android handsets.

3. Positive Buzz

There is reality and then there is perception. When it comes to finding success in tech sometimes perception can go a long way towards winning. For years BlackBerry has been beaten down by bad press reporting daily on the company’s fall from grace. But since Chen took the helm in November, both financial analysts and media outlets have softened their critique of BlackBerry. A sampling of headlines this week include "Why BlackBerry Could Get Back On Track Sooner Than You Think" and "Is BlackBerry Poised to Beat Earnings Estimates?." And just this week BlackBerry reported its low-priced Z10 handset sold out in India, prompting headlines such as "BlackBerry Z10 restocked in India after selling out within a week." When was the last time you read a headline that a BlackBerry handset sold out?

4. WhatsApp Effect

Chen has publicly expressed renewed optimism over its messaging business in the wake of Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion. BlackBerry, at Mobile World Congress, said its mission is to push BBM into as many OS platforms as he can, including connected devices -- for example, cars. Chen told reporters at this year's Mobile World Congress that BlackBerry counted 85 million active users of its BBM service, comparing it to WhatsApp's 450 million.

5. The POTUS Phone

BlackBerry earned major street cred among business executives this week when it was reported that President Obama had considered switching to a Google-powered Android handset, but decided to stick with his trusted BlackBerry instead. It's not quite the same level of endorsement a LeBron James can give Nike, but a POTUS approval should go a long way for BlackBerry to hang onto the few CrackBerry diehards that still own one of its handsets.

6. BlackBerry A Player In Red Hot EMM Space

The once-ubiquitous BlackBerry Enterprise Servers that used to inhabit so many corporate back rooms are shrinking in numbers fast. But with the recently released BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (BES 10) the company is giving large enterprises a reason to keep BlackBerry around. The BES 10 device management platform is seen as a secure device management platform that can be used to protect not only BlackBerry handsets, but also Android and iOS devices.

BlackBerry sees a bright future in the enterprise mobility management space that is heating up with stiff competition from mega-vendors such as IBM, which bought Fiberlink; Oracle, which bought Bitzer Mobile; and VMware, which acquired AirWatch.

7. Government Security Clearance

Wednesday BlackBerry received an important nod from the federal government in the form of a security clearance for use of its BES 10 by U.S. government agencies to manage and secure Android and iOS devices. The clearance impacts BlackBerry's Secure Work Space offering, part of its BES 10 platform. Now BlackBerry meets Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certification and its mobile device management platform can be used to wall off corporate email, calendar, contacts and memos on nearly any smartphone and tablet devices.

8. If Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery…

Ryan Seacrest is clearly no high-tech tycoon, but the "American Idol" icon looked poised to hit it big with a "BlackBerry inspired" iPhone accessory that allowed you to slip on a QWERTY keyboard to the bottom of any iPhone. There was much buzz about ahead of sales for Seacrest's add-on, called Typo Keyboard. But before the Typo Keyboard went on sale BlackBerry sued the company, claiming the case infringed on three of its patents.

"This is a blatant infringement against BlackBerry's iconic keyboard, and we will vigorously protect our intellectual property against any company that attempts to copy our unique design," BlackBerry said in a statement.

The good news, however, is that there still might be a sweet spot for BlackBerry's QWERTY handsets.

9. BBM As A Profit Center For BB

While BlackBerry's hopes of being seen as a hip new handset option for millennial set is slim to none, it does claim 85 million BBM users. Aside from validating its business by comparing it to WhatsApp, BlackBerry is stepping up efforts to monetize its BBM network. Falling short of inserting ads in messages themselves, BlackBerry told it was going to start selling what is described as "sponsored channels" for advertisers. BlackBerry has also said it wants to broaden BBM's appeal by supporting the secure messaging service as a way to send money.

10. Apple Boosts BlackBerry's Telematics Hopes

When Apple said in June at its WWDC it was going to use BlackBerry's QNX platform for its CarPlay in-vehicle system for linking an iPhone to a car's infotainment system there was a collective gasp. BlackBerry bought QNX in 2010 and the company already had deep relationships with car manufacturers to power their in-car entertainment systems. With Apple's indirect endorsement and telematics bundles now coming standard in fleets of new cars rolling off the assembly line, BlackBerry's future in the car business might just move into overdrive.