The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry

blackberry_logo-brokenWe all remember the “CrackBerry” craze during the early 2000’s. Everywhere you went you saw both business professionals and everyday people typing away on a small device, the BlackBerry. The company had all of America in the palm of their hand, so what happened that we don’t all have Blackberries in the palm of ours? The fall of BlackBerry is still a wonder to most people. How can a company with almost 50% of the smartphone market in 2010 fall all the way to a measly 5% in just a matter of 5 years?

Blackberry was formed in 1984. Originally named Research In Motion (RIM), they worked in the market of wireless point-of–sale equipment as well as modems and pagers. RIM was the first to make the transition from pager to handheld computer and eventually to the smartphone we came to love.

In 1998 the first “BlackBerry” was launched. The name Blackberry came from the appearance of patented keyboard design which was easy for typing with thumbs. This first BlackBerry caught the attention of not only consumers but other companies such as IBM and BellSouth (which eventually became AT&T).

The craze continued to build as they launched devices slowly resembling more and more the Blackberry that commonly comes to mind when thinking of the company. With the launch of Apple’s iPhone in 2007, BlackBerry made their first mistake that lead to their fall. Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin viewed the iPhone as a toy and not as a serious competitor, saying that consumers don’t want to type on glass when they can type on real keys. They felt as though they had secured a loyal fan base of both business professionals and everyday consumers.

BlackBerry peaked in 2010 with an estimated worth of $77 Billion and a 50% share of the smartphone market. In this year they launched their first touchscreen phone as well as their most popular phone, BlackBerry Bold.

In 2011 Apple launched the original iPad which tested the potential of the tablet market. Trying to get a piece of that market, BlackBerry made their second mistake. By assigning more engineers to work on developing a tablet of their own, the development of phones slowed. Unfortunately, their tablet, the PlayBook, was launched and instantly flopped. This started the never ending game of catch up which ultimately caused their downfall.

In addition, BlackBerry delayed the launch of their new operating system, BlackBerry 10. Originally planned to be released in 2011, it was pushed back to 2012 which didn’t actually launch until 2013. Although BlackBerry had more experience over their iOS and Android competitors in the smartphone market, with this delay they had lost their lead. By this point, Android devices were into their fourth major generation and Apple iOS was on its sixth generation of operating system.

It is currently unknown what BlackBerry plans to do. It is rumored that they are on the search for a buyer, which raises more questions. Who would buy a company that has fallen so far behind? Will the company be sold as parts or as a whole? What will the buyer plan to do with the company? All these are likely to be answered soon.

As for now, we can sit back and learn from the rise and fall of Blackberry. There are clearly more than a few things that lead to their demise but we’ll focus on a few of the big mistakes and see how they can apply to any business.

  • They ignored the competition Keeping an eye on your competitors is very important. When you don’t pay attention to what they are doing you lose track of the direction the industry is heading.
  • They didn’t focus on their bread and butter – Every business specializes in some area. In the case of BlackBerry it was their smartphones. By taking away resources from their specialty and trying to focus on another aspect (the tablet market) they fell behind and lost what made them a successful business in the first place.
  • They didn’t stay up to date – The biggest and most obvious mistake BlackBerry made was not staying up to date. They felt that they had a large and loyal fan base and didn’t have to worry about having the newest, flashiest technology and products. Meanwhile, their competitors were making large advancements. By the time BlackBerry realized this it was too late to catch up and they had lost many of their “loyal” customers. A business can never assume that they have loyal customers. By constantly striving for improvements the chance of losing client base is greatly reduced.

In all honesty, it’s sad to see a company lead an industry and rise to the top only to be taken down by a series of poor decisions. But there are lessons to learn from the misfortune of BlackBerry. Keeping an eye on the competition, focusing on what makes your business special and keeping up to date with the industry we’ve all learned to be crucial.

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