How did BlackBerry fail?

BlackBerry was unable to innovate away from its keyboard. It also made the wrong decisions on its mobile OS and missed a mistake by locking BlackBerry Messenger to its hardware.

A short drive to irrelevance

How did BlackBerry fail?

As a Canadian, this hurts to say: come tomorrow, BlackBerry phones are gone for good.

The company will shut down text, data, and voice functionality on legacy devices.

It’s an anticlimactic end to one of the biggest corporate downfalls in recent memory.

Blame the iPhone?

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January 2007, many industry players were skeptical.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer mocked it for being overpriced and lacking a keyboard. He predicted it would fail.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry — founded and manufactured by Ontario-based Research in Motion (RIM) — had 10% of the smartphone market (and would rise to 20% in 2009).

BlackBerry pioneered…

… on-the-go communication and email with its keyboard-enabled phones. According to The Verge, its success laid the foundation for its fall:

  • Form factor: BlackBerry’s calling card was its keyboard and the company missed the touch screen revolution (spearheaded by Apple). To compound the mistake, it bet the future of mobile on Flash and its mobile OS faltered.
  • Lack of consumer focus: BlackBerry’s core business was with corporate and government customers, who relied on its security and email. The company was content catering to this crowd and missed billions of regular future consumers.
  • Missed opportunity: BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) was a very popular messaging service, which did attract consumers. However, BlackBerry locked the service to its device. WhatsApp — acquired by Facebook for $19B in 2014 — showed the value of cross-platform messaging.

BlackBerry peaked at 50m+ units in 2011

But the touch screen freight train — led by iPhones and Android smartphones (e.g., Samsung, HTC etc.) — ran it over.

In 2013, the company renamed from RIM to BlackBerry (spoiler alert: this didn’t change its fortunes).

By 2016, it shut down its smartphone manufacturing business. Today, BlackBerry has pivoted into a software firm — valued at $5B+ — that primarily sells cybersecurity.

Meanwhile, Apple has sold ~2B iPhones and is the world’s most valuable firm (*pours out some maple syrup*).

New call-to-action
Topics: Personal Tech

Related Articles

Get the 5-minute news brief keeping 2.5M+ innovators in the loop. Always free. 100% fresh. No bullsh*t.