Once upon a time, BlackBerry was riding high on success in smartphone markets worldwide. Founded in the year 1984 and formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM), Blackberry offered its people something its competitors could not. Starting by creating pagers and handsets, BlackBerry's first handheld device was the Blackberry 850 rolled out in the year 1999, which fell in the category of pagers.
In the year 2002, Blackberry had launched its first smartphone, Blackberry 5810, which was able to make phone calls, followed by huge success because of its unique design and features. Within the first two years of releasing mobile phone services, the company reported to have more than 1 million subscribers and claimed to reach 9 million by the year 2007.
At one point in time for BlackBerry, it retained 50% of the smartphone market in the United States and 20% of it globally.
BlackBerry initially started very well and grasped a very good market share. But when competitors like Apple, Android, etc were released in this changing world, it lost its charm and became a dog as they gradually lost the market share they had once.
The QWERTY keyboard was a highlight for the company, along with it providing to check one’s emails on the go. BBM: BlackBerry’s Instant Messenger Services were yet another feature that none of its competitors offered, along with the unique read receipt ticks years ago (now offered by WhatsApp and similar other applications).
Soon enough, with each new release, BlackBerry had also become the BUSINESS phone everybody desired to own. People used to keep with them a BlackBerry for business purposes, with a regular one for normal functions. In short, it was the Apple of present times, a status symbol of one owning a BLACKBERRY, where 'black' had turned colorful for RIM.
FUN FACT: When it was time to name RIM’s newest device, the RIM Interactive Pager 900, the company's branding executives felt the resemblance of its keyboard to strawberry seeds. This led them to explore names of fruits and vegetables, eventually naming it as BlackBerry, as it matched the device's black.
Unfortunately, those days for Blackberry are gone. While there still maybe a few users, the company had lost its charm. Back in the year 2016, BlackBerry declared that it will no longer be making devices of its own. Had it all been so well, what led Blackberry to the hole that it still has not come out? Let us discuss what turned BlackBerry into a question mark from being a star product!
Underestimating its competitors BlackBerrys biggest issue was its lack of respect for competition. It was stubborn in protecting its land so much that it missed out on what innovations Apple and Google were coming up with. Other producers entered the market with nothing to lose in at times of greatest innovation.
Ignoring the Touchscreen Era Another reason behind BlackBerry’s failure was their ignorance to adapt to the touchscreen. While Apple had come up with a touchscreen interface, it was performing well in the market and BlackBerry was still struggling with a qwerty keyboard. Although BBM and its interface were highly popular, BlackBerry imagined it had a greater time and room for errors than what it had!
Physically Unappealing Another key issue with BlackBerry was its phone’s physical appeal. The phones were quite heavy, bulky, and did not look very nice. The hybrid design was unnecessary, as one keyboard was enough instead of two (one in the touch and another qwerty keyboard). All these times, Apple was innovating, tweaking, and examining every aspect of the iPhone, making it sleeker and more user-friendly interface.
Keeping its focus on millions of existing customers, Blackberry closed its arms for the billions that were to come in the time ahead.
Persistence of BBM and BlackBerry OS
BBM became a super hit amongst the youth as it made texting interesting, with features like pinging another user, status updates, instant messaging, etc. However, with WhatsApp, iMessage’s, Kik in the market, these apps could be installed on any device, with any OS whereas BBM and BlackBerry’s OS remained exclusive and limited. No third-party apps could be downloaded, whereas WhatsApp owned a $19 billion business soon enough. The functions one could do on BlackBerry phones remained the same while its competitors focussed on increasing its products' worth.
As rightly said by Mark Zuckerberg, “in a world that is changing quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”. BlackBerry is a prime example of no matter how good one may already be, there is always a scope of doing better. It is either ADAPT or DIE! In the Technology market, it is crucial to push boundaries, innovate, and make bold moves to not get left behind.
The following graph shows the decline of a great brand like BlackBerry, from its start to peak, maturity, and ultimately the demise.
BlackBerry lost more than $18 billion in yearly revenue and its consumers seem to have forgotten about its phones. A brand must be flexible and adapt to the market's demands while maintaining personality and flair. It is not just about having a big touchscreen; it is about bringing innovation in products while staying recognizable. While BlackBerry is spreading its legs in other segments with its ongoing acquisitions and partnerships ever since, will it successfully rebrand itself as a software company? Will it is a thing to watch, only time will tell the tale?!!!
Author: Shagun Kshitij
Co-Author: Vandna Pandey, Kundan Sharma
Readers Take: Gaurav Agarwal
"I always had a feeling that Blackberry and Nokia died through a planned suicide. Post 9/11 US wanted to up its game with surveillance. Internet and mobile are 2 ways that looked like the future. They spent time and created avenues to tap every device on the planet. Now the only thing that any govt needs to know where you are and what you are texting talking is your phone number or email or a compromised app. Nokia and RIM where non US brands, in fact Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer was Nokia's CEO in the dying days. MS took over the brand and then let it die. Nokia being the innovator and extremely progressive could not have missed the bus the way it did."