Blackberry once was the unquestioned leader in smartphone technology; however things have long since changed. The downfall of the $ 80 billion company to its current 2.6 billion staggering position was an inevitable consequence of its indifference towards user preferences and demands.
Blackberry’s rise to fame
Blackberry became a hit with its convenient and innovative QWERTY keyboard. Its email service and strong security made it the choice of the political elite and the business community.
Later, integration of new features like chat and camera attracted the major mass market. Blackberry “Charm” “pearl” and”Electron” phones created a new smartphone culture.
The Blackberry became a must-have gadget. Everybody was hooked to their phones; emailing, messaging and browsing.Blackberry reached the height of its popularity. It was dubbed as “Crackberry” owing to its addictive nature. There was a time, like the Titanic, that people thought nothing could bring RIM down.
New competitors in the smartphone market
The iPhone was lauched in 2007. Apple’s brainchild, unlike the Blackberry, was catered towards the consumer and not just the professional. The aesthetic iPhone had a touchscreen display and an innovative operating system. Blackberry had introduced no such touchscreen phone.
The rapidly increasing number of iPhone subscribers heralded a threat for Blackberry phones. Blackberry, however, did not consider it a significant cause for concern. It continued to rely on its physcial keyboard and became too complacent about its loyal customer base.
The following year saw the lanch of Android. Android also proved to be a fierce competitor. It is now the most popular operating system and the dominant force in the US smartphone market with a 55.1% share.
Smelling the change in the air Blackberry came up with its first ever touchscreen device, the Blackberry Storm. The new blackberry had a poor touch screen and could not do well against its competitors. The Blackberry bold series, however, were a huge success.
Blackberry’s unsuccessful “Playbook”
Tablets have also proven to be game changers for different companies. Blackberry tried to dabble in the tablet market as well. The iPad became immensely popular and Blackberry tried to compete with its own rendition i.e. the Playbook. However, it was priced too high, lacked interesting apps, included a native email app, and had a poor user-interface. Hence, it could not make its mark in the competitive tablet space. It was especially disappointing for Blackberry’s loyal consumers and made them rethink their loyalty towards the brand.
In 2011, millions of BlackBerry smartphone users faced service outages for days due to a major fault at RIM. This glitch happened on the same day that Apple was scheduled to release a major update. Apple introduced iMessage, a director competitor of Blackberry Messenger. Bit by bit Blackberry was proving to the world that it was crumbling, and it was one thing going wrong after another which eventually ate away most of their market share.
Failure of Z10 and Q10
From there on, nothing really turned out to be good for Blackberry. It continued to lose its market to other smartphone manufacturers. The launch of Blackberry Z10 was delayed for a long time. And when it finally launched in 2013 people were shocked and amazed by how utterly boring it was as a phone.
The purely touchscreen Z10 was a desperate attempt by Blackberry to save itself. However, this attempt was made too late and the phone offered nothing new. The beleaguered Blackberry made another attempt for its survival with the Q10 phone which failed as well. Blackberry had lagged far behind its competitors, and it only has itself to blame.
Blackberry’s major strength was its impenetrable security. With time, other manufacturers also made their security stronger. The NSA PRISM Program revelations served as a major blow to Blackberry which was mainly relying on its strong data protection system for its survival.
Documents revealed how NSA could tap into blackberry systems gaining access to contact lists, SMS traffic, notes, and users’ current and past locations.This blow drove the final nail in the company’s coffin.
However, it is important to note that Blackberry was never completely fool proof. Accounts could be hacked and spied on using tools like different spy apps for blackberry phones.
These apps, though easily available, required contact with the victim’s phone. Hence, use of blackberry spyware was not common and there weren’t many apprehensions.
The PRISM revelations however, were highly damaging for the company since they questioned the security system that Blackberry had been marketing on.
Too little, too late
Blackberry could not keep up with new competitors entering the market. It grew complacent about its products and loyal customer base.It neglected changing consumer preferences and failed to innovate accordingly.
One cannot simply afford to procrastinate in the technological world. Even a few delays in innovation can spell deep trouble for the company. With such indifference, Blackberry’s downfall was inevitable. The desperate attempts made for survival were apparently “too little, too late”.