With BlackBerry having been reduced to the corporate marketplace in recent years, it’s easy to forget that the corporation once attempted to take a bite out of Apple’s market share. Ever since the initial iPhone went on sale in 2007, Apple has dominated the consumer electronics smartphone marketplace, confining the previously prominent BlackBerry pretty much to the garbage can in consumer terms.
iPhone revolutionizes smartphone industry
It’s easy to forget now, but that initial iPhone release in 2007 completely changed the direction of the smartphone industry. The initial processing power of the iPhone was 22 times that of the BlackBerry which was available at that time, and it was viewed as a mini Macintosh in telephone form.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, it has now emerged that BlackBerry was aware of the potential of the iPhone from day one. As soon as the hierarchy of the company got its hands on the first iPhone, it realized that it was dealing with a personal computer, not a mere Nokia phone. Suddenly the ante had been significantly upped in the smartphone marketplace, and BlackBerry became aware very rapidly that it was competing with an extremely powerful device.
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With this in mind, Mike Lazaridis, founder and Vice Chairman of BlackBerry, recognized that the corporation needed to do something drastic in order to maintain its market position. Of course, we now know that this impression was completely correct, and that history has dictated that Apple would completely usurp BlackBerry, and relegate it to a company that attempts to sell devices direct to other businesses. Apple owns the consumer electronics marketplace, and has done for several years. Additionally, its recent figures suggest that it is merely cementing its dominance over this niche as it develops further.
But back in 2007, it was genuinely believed by BlackBerry that the corporation could undermine the iPhone by fixing everything that was wrong with it. This strategy began originally by simply making negative pronouncements to the press, for example bemoaning the lack of a BlackBerry-style keyboard on the embryonic Apple smartphone. To this day, the BlackBerry keyboard is one of the most popular aspects of its smartphone range, even though the lack of one has never remotely damaged the iPhone.
This lack of a keyboard was initially central to the BlackBerry philosophy in attempting to oppose the iPhone. In a presentation made in August 2007, Lazaridis emphasized the improved keyboard in its proposed BlackBerry Bold, and also an innovative trackpad which was intended to replace the trackball included in earlier devices. The company had also paid heed to the success of the iPhone and attempted to ape some of its stronger characteristics; consequently, the BlackBerry Bold was to feature a larger and more detailed screen than previous releases.
BlackBerry Storm floated
Unfortunately, this device failed to capture the imagination of carriers, who were already falling in love with the rapidly growing iPhone series. Apple could seemingly do no wrong at this point in time, after the iPod music player had established itself as a market-leader by some distance. This was a brand new era in which mobile hardware could sell on a mass scale and really strike a chord with everyday consumers, and it seemed increasingly clear that BlackBerry was failing to deliver this with the BlackBerry Bold.
So at that time, Lazaridis decided to stake a significant amount of the company’s credit and reputation on the BlackBerry Storm. This device was a pioneering touchscreen smartphone, which the founder of BlackBerry claimed was simply unique in terms of technology. Lazaridis boasted that it would be possible to operate this particular phone in the simplest method possible; simply tapping the screen. There would be no need for a clumsy iPhone style sweeping of fingers with the BlackBerry Bold, instead the device would entirely replicate the tactile feel of tapping the existing BlackBerry keyboard.
BlackBerry could feel the market turning against them decisively, and intended to roll out this phone in less than nine months. This was an extremely ambitious schedule for the BlackBerry Bold, surely a supremely accurately named device, as the usual timeframe for producing a BlackBerry smartphone was 18 months at that time. Lazaridis was proposing to halve the amount of time required to design and manufacture a major smartphone product, and at the same time produce a level of technology which had never been seen previously.
BlackBerry Bold Bombs; iPhone emerges supreme
Not only did BlackBerry endeavour to produce this Storm model in nine months, it also attempted to launch a proprietary software store similar to that of the Apple App Store at the same time. While we all know the historical outcome of this particular attempt, even contemplating it without hindsight would suggest that it was always likely to go awry.
Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Storm was extremely poorly received. Pretty much all smartphone releases today are extremely slick and competent, and indeed a criticism of the niche is often that there is insufficient difference between various devices. That wasn’t a problem for the BlackBerry Storm, it was instead completely panned for being absolutely lacking in any user-friendly aspects.
The best attempts of BlackBerry to respond to the iPhone had floundered completely, and Apple was now clear to dominate the early manoeuverings of the smartphone genre. It took a few years before the Samsung Galaxy range began to seriously rival the iPhone, but to this day Apple has retained a cachet with the iPhone which was established in those early days of battling with BlackBerry.