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BlackBerry convenes special committee to decide company's future

Trading of shares of Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry were halted Monday morning as the firm convened a special committee to explore strategic alternatives, fanning talk of a possible bid to go private in order to fix its problems while out of the public eye.

BlackBerry has been mulling going private in the wake of disappointing sales of its latest flagship products, which most recently resulted in a quarterly loss of $84 million when the company shipped only 2.7 million devices running its latest operating system. The firm announced on Monday that its directors had formed a special committee to ponder BlackBerry's options going forward, though there is no guarantee that this process will result in any particular transaction.

Going private, at least, would remove from BlackBerry's executives the burden of having to justify quarterly performances to shareholders. The company has been continually cutting staff and closing operations in order reduce expenditures, and chief executive Thorsten Heins, along with much of the rest of the company's executive staff, have been under heavy scrutiny in light of BlackBerry's performances.

The staff reductions are a continuation of a months-long process that has seen BlackBerry cutting operations in order to increase efficiencies and scale the company correctly to its user base. In the years before Apple's iPhone and devices running Google's Android OS rose to prominence in the smartphone sector, BlackBerry produced dozens of phone models per year. Recent months have seen the Canadian firm scaling back that production to just three new devices running BlackBerry 10 this year.

Other options available to BlackBerry include a joint venture or a possible sale to another technology company. Lenovo has previously been mentioned as a candidate to acquire BlackBerry, adding a developed smartphone segment much as it did a computing segment when it bought IBM's PC division in 2005. In March of this year, Lenovo's chief executive made headlines with his honesty in telling a French newspaper that acquiring BlackBerry would make sense. The company has not, though, made any public overtures since.

BlackBerry 10 OS is currently in fourth place among mobile operating systems, behind Google's Android, Apple's iOS, and Microsoft's Windows Phone. It holds that position, though, largely due to the fact that there are virtually no other major operating systems currently in wide release. The past quarter saw Windows Phone solidifying its lead over BlackBerry, with Nokia shipping more Windows Phone devices than BlackBerry did smartphones in total.