I’ve seen some hubbub today over Jim Balsillie’s move to sell his entire stake in BlackBerry, a move I first read about this morning on CNET. ZDNet said the former co-CEO’s move sends a signal of no-confidence, Venture Beat sarcastically reported that it illustrates how impressed Balsillie is with BlackBerry 10, and Quartz somehow saw the sell-off as evidence that the company is doomed. Some investors agreed, sending BlackBerry shares down as much as 7.5 percent early this morning.
I understand the knee-jerk reaction — Balsillie had long been a fixture at Research In Motion, and along with co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was the face of the company for two decades. But I think it’s ridiculous to perceive the stock dump as damning for BlackBerry or its new operating system. Shares of BlackBerry climbed steadily for three months after plunging to just over $6 in late September, so it’s likely Balsillie — who already is very rich — saw a sell-off as a fairly safe move for a very uncertain stock. And don’t forget that Balsillie was at the helm when RIM fell off the cliff — he and Lazaridis felt no sense of urgency to move to another platform even after it had become apparent that BlackBerry OS was simply inferior to iOS and Android.
It’s fair to say that Balsillie hasn’t exactly had his finger on the pulse of the smartphone market for many years, so there’s no reason to think he’s suddenly found his crystal ball. BlackBerry is still a huge long shot in the smartphone market, but there are still some compelling reasons to believe it could get back in the game. Investors seem to agree as BlackBerry shares have more than recovered from this morning’s dip.