What Can We Learn From The Demise of BlackBerry Ltd

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What Can We Learn From The Demise of BlackBerry Ltd
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BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s fall from grace seems to complete this week after 2013 Q4 figures showed losses of $423 million. This was followed by another PR disaster after the Blackberry CEO, John Chen, threatened employees that leaked information with the sack.

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BlackBerry: a fascinating case study

BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) is a fascinating case study for investors in the tech industry. This sector is a volatile rise and fall of fly-by-night names and brands, so leadership and a company’s history of innovation are paramount.

The technology industry can yield a temporary explosion in sales before a steep descent; to stay in the game you need to develop and be bold.  Whether you like or loathe Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), they’ve retained their consumer core and innovated constantly; likewise Samsung are looking to innovate their way out of a slump.

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In the summer of 2008 BlackBerry had a share price of around $144; editions like the BlackBerry 9900, the Pearl 8100, and the 9700 became practically iconic; Barack Obama was an avid user of the device, and the “crackberry” had become a staple of modern business.

BlackBerry’s unstable fortunes

BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s fortunes waned but seemed to enjoy a second wind with millions of teenagers adopting the device for its BBM capabilities.

Now BlackBerry’s slump is nearly complete.  Its share price lies at just over $8, and investors have been predicting catastrophe after last year’s Z10 failed to take the market by storm.

Technology firms, more than any other industry, have to keep innovating, moving, dropping grand ideas and making bold steps into the future.  It seems like when BlackBerry’s stock reached its peak they consolidated and rested on their laurels.

The debate regarding ‘what went wrong?’ ranges from the ultra-technical, to the glaringly obvious.  One such glaring point is that BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s phones – until the Z10 – had small screens and a tangible keyboard; the competition had large screens and touchscreen keyboards.

Blackberry used to enjoy the privilege of BBM, but when cross-platform messaging applications like WhatsApp became prevalent there seemed little point in the Blackberry for non-business usage.  It would lose both the business market and the young people’s market practically overnight.

Now it seems that when most of us buy a phone, there’s a simple choice: Apple (iOS), Android or Windows, then there’s factors like elegance of design, user experience, and camera capabilities.  BB10 (QNX’s microkernel OS), is a formidable platform but it doesn’t have the pull or the range of Apps which entice users to the big operating systems.

Communications screening a positive for BlackBerry

Blackberry’s remaining markets seem to be amongst dedicated business users who enjoy the phones ability to screen communications; the device easily records phone calls and shares copies of messages.  It also probably still has a market for those that can’t get their head around using a touchscreen instead of a keyboard – possibly some elements of the older generation.  But in general, it seems that anything a Blackberry can do an iPhone can do better.

Around the time of 2005 different phones had different specialisations, but it became apparent that if a phone could act as a bridge to the net then it would corner the market – the iPhone was released in 2007 and in the following years it would gazump all of Blackberry’s instant messaging features.

The BlackBerry Z10, Z30 and Playbook were all decent devices hinting at a new dawn, but ultimately floundered.  BlackBerry needs to plough another niche and it does seem to be making headway in terms of connected cars and software.

BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s new CEO John Chen has a history of company turnarounds and is keen not to leak any impending plans although software and business usage have returned to the top of his agenda.

More importantly, he’s an outsider coming in, rather than an insider looking to rebuild the company; BlackBerry could certainly be accused of going stagnant in recent years due to too much insider influence.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I did compare both BlackBerry’s OS up against IOS and Android, I can understand why BlackBerry is losing. And I’m not bashing only being truthful, and I know for a fact I can fix this for BlackBerry.

  2. It’s true I-phone and Android is smart, the name of the game is to make your life easier not harder. BlackBerry thinks complexity is being smart, it’s simplicity, ease of use.

  3. “But in general, it seems that anything a Blackberry can do an iPhone can do better”.

    Comments like this demonstrate the state of “Professional Tech Bloggers” all over the world…

    They bring their “mobile ideology” to the article and throw objectivity and fairness out the window… Someone needs to tell this “pro” that Apple lost market share in the USA last quarter – as their phones and OS are becoming stale…

  4. I had a Samsung Galaxy S3 for over a year… I now have a BlackBerry Z30…

    My question is….”now that you can have Android apps run flawlessly on a Z30 – why would you settle for a plastic, horrible typing experience, weaker battery life on an Android phone?

  5. Great post anubis…. I installed Snap, yesterday, on my Z30 and now have Spotify and for the first time of any of my BlackBerrys, over the years, HBO Go….both work flawlessly.

    For the less technical… 1 Mobile Market worked very well for Android Apps on BlackBerry, as well.

    Now that the “App Gap” is “officially closed”…. how long will it take for people to stop settling for less quality phones than BlackBerrys?

    Z30 is the “Best Rated/Most Highly Recommended” phone on Verizon, Amazon, Rogers etc….

    People need to wake up and have the “wherewithal” to leave the herd and get a BlackBerry…

  6. I LOLed at that sentence as well. I’m going to guess the writer hasn’t used a blackberry, or they used one a long time ago and are comparing it to their current iPhone.

    This sentence was also ridiculous: “..still has a market for those that can’t get their head around using a touchscreen instead of a keyboard”. This writer can’t get their head around that a physical keyboard is better than a touch keyboard. You can type much faster and more accurately. I’m a web developer and use iPhones and Ipods all the time at work to test projects. Accessing things like special characters is so annoying, sometimes you have to go three screens in to even get to common characters like the underscore. With a physical keyboard every key is also a special character with a shift button.

    I think the biggest thing we can learn from the “demise of blackberry” which is not mentioned in this article is that its difficult to compete with big conglomerates. BB is a small company which only does mobile devices. Apple, Google, MS are all big companies that make a lot of money outside of mobile. I would also be curious to find out if BB (a Canadian company) engages in the same tax avoidance strategies that Google, Apple and MS do who pay virtually no taxes via loopholes.

    **I’ve never owned a Blackberry** So i’m not a loyalest. Though i’m considering the Q30 later this year.

  7. What a biased article. How does this stuff still get posted? Apple’s market is a fraction of Samsungs (and shrinking fast). Apple was a fad and that fad is done. Innovate? Seriously…changing the colour of a phone and making it cheaper (quality and price) is not innovation, quite the opposite actually. As for functionality…well, i’m running a bunch of Android apps on my z30 and the device is rock solid (can’t do that on an iCrapple). Anyway, this is such old news, it’s really sad to have wasted time in responding to it, but we live in an age of social media….and judging by the lack of iCrapple support here…its obvious which way the winds of change are headed ;)

  8. What Can We Learn From The Demise of BlackBerry Ltd? I don’t know. We’d have to wait for it to die in order to find out, wouldn’t we?

    I work at a company in Canada with over 1500 employees who were all equipped with iPhones until May of last year. Then, the company’s security and IT departments took our iPhones away and gave us all Blackberry Z10s, as the iPhones were not secure enough. The Z10 is a good phone, and the BB10 OS is excellent, providing you with the best unified messaging inbox of any smartphone. My wife liked it so much, she just bought a Z30, and that phone rectifies the one weak point of the Z10: shortish battery life. Her Z30, with its 5″ screen, also provides the best web browsing experience I’ve ever seen on a smartphone. Also, both the Z10 and the Z30 standard with micro-HDMI ports, which makes plugging it into a large screen TV a piece of cake for us to watch Netflix when we’re at her parents’ place. Oh, and how are we watchine Netflix on a Blackberry? Simple. You can easily install ‘SNAP’, an app which gives you full access to the Google Play store and all Android apps.

  9. What’s that great song by Irving Berlin – in the great musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”. ”
    Anything you can do, I can do better”. “I can do anything better than you”. “No you can’t!”. “Yes I can!”. “No you can’t!”. “Yes I can!”.

    Will this stupid author grow the fr!g up.

  10. “But in general, it seems that anything a Blackberry can do an iPhone can do better.”

    I seriously LOL’d at this comment. Interesting opinion but an uneducated one, except in terms of Apple’s ability to keep their users blind to reality.

    I read this article over several times and can only give it equal value to the scuttlebutt that I would hear if I worked at Apple.

  11. But in general, it seems that anything a Blackberry can do an iPhone can do better. Purely your own OPINION, as many of us think the opposite.

    Once again a BLOGGERS Opinion piece…not real news!

Comments are closed.