It can be said that BlackBerry invented the smartphone, which would eventually spawn a culture of people addicted to their devices. With the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft joining the mix, the addiction has become widespread. Now the company that started it all is re-imagining the way we use our devices by focusing on how our devices connect to the world around us.
One of the more interesting stories concerning BlackBerry is how their devices became popular in the first place. This can be attributed to the fact that there was no one else offering hi-tech devices and services like BlackBerry at the time of their reign. Yet considering their services were primarily marketed towards government and enterprise users, this doesn’t fully explain their appeal. Some people will argue that it was BBM that was behind the popularity of BlackBerry devices among consumers and although I’m certain it had a major impact, I think there’s another explanation that many neglect to consider: status.
Since BlackBerry devices were designed with Government and Enterprise users in mind, the chances of a regular Joe owning a BlackBerry were minimal. Owning a BlackBerry meant you were in big business or powerful government. You were a person with a high position, a successful person that needed to stay in touch. The association between BlackBerry and status became exclusive and coveted. It wasn’t long before those with BlackBerry devices “looked down” on those who used basic mobile phones.
This kind of social mobile elitism has evolved to become the norm in today’s society. Like all empires the “RIMpire” was eventually overtaken by Apple, which was then overtaken by Google. This is the nature of business and as BlackBerry is redefining itself, its fans and followers are hoping that it will eventually re-claim its former glory. There’s only one problem to this plan. BlackBerry isn’t trying to reclaim its former, heyday glory, and to this I say, thank goodness, because BlackBerry is evolving for the future of mobility.
“The popularity of BlackBerry devices within the consumer market was indeed a welcomed surprise for the company but the idea that BlackBerry should be focusing on the consumer market is an idea enthusiasts need to let go.”
Sure, BlackBerry “invented” the smartphone, revolutionized the way we communicate with mobile devices, and defined a culture of hyper-connected followers, but this was never their objective. These outcomes were the results of BlackBerry’s relentless pursuit of being the best in mobile security, productivity, and communications throughout the world. The popularity of BlackBerry devices within the consumer market was indeed a welcomed surprise for the company but the idea that BlackBerry should be focusing on the consumer market is an idea enthusiasts need to let go.
BlackBerry devices weren’t designed for consumers in the classic sense. Ever since John Chen took the helm as CEO of BlackBerry, he has often stated that BlackBerry was returning to their roots: Enterprise and Government consumers. Their devices will be marketed towards the aptly named “prosumer.” This is not to say BlackBerry doesn’t care for its loyal consumers specifically, but the announcement of these news did leave the average consumer feeling abandoned and wondering why BlackBerry would make such a decision. After all, BlackBerry needs consumers in order to be successful, right? Wrong. But I will address this reasoning later.
The important questions are, “Did BlackBerry really lose their vision and if it did, how did it happen?” The answers to these questions are loaded, but given the history of information available to us now, we can deduce a few things that may explain when and how BlackBerry “lost” its way.
There was a time when there wasn’t any competition for BlackBerry in the smartphone industry and things were good, but when major players entered the field, BlackBerry found itself overwhelmed. And when I say overwhelmed, I don’t mean that the competition was better… just different in a way that BlackBerry didn’t anticipate.
“BlackBerry is returning to what made them great.”
The DNA of BlackBerry has always been security, productivity, and best-in-class communications. Their focus has always remained in the regulated industries.
But, the competition was made up of a different DNA. It was consumer driven with their priority composed of delivering what consumers wanted. It didn’t matter if that was games, Internet capabilities, apps, camera phone features, or the ability to watch movies / television programs on their devices. Initially, BlackBerry paid no mind to what the competition was offering because they felt that it couldn’t work due to network limitations and an unproven consumer focused strategy. BlackBerry didn’t anticipate that this novel approach, which would be adopted by numerous companies in the years to come, would be so successful.
“The reality is that consumers got it wrong. BlackBerry is not abandoning them.”
Gradually, BlackBerry lost its lion share of the market to the competition as consumers got to experience new operating systems and applications. The consumer driven smartphone industry continued to flourish and BlackBerry, well, this is where they “lost” their vision. Although they remained true to their values, they failed at adapting to the ever-evolving mobile industry. Instead of refining what they offered, BlackBerry attempted the “me-too” strategy and “tacked-on” features the competition had, even though BlackBerry devices weren’t built for such features.
With rushed and unfinished products, subpar consumer features, and the unsuccessful introduction of BlackBerry App World, the company couldn’t keep up with consumer demand and expectation. The competition skyrocketed and soon dominated the consumer market. However, BlackBerry continued to dominate the enterprise and government sectors. Why? Because that is where their identity was born and their device’s primary focus.
After a few years of spiraling downward and losing focus, along with inadequate decision making, BlackBerry is returning to what made them great. This is, by far, the healthiest move and the most encouraging news for those of us who remain BlackBerry enthusiasts.
The reality is that consumers got it wrong. BlackBerry is not abandoning them. They are simply re-establishing themselves as the most efficient, productive, reliable, and secure operating system in the world for the people that run the world. Make no mistake, even the competition recognizes BlackBerry’s dominance in the private sector and regulated industries.
“You’re BlackBerry addiction isn’t going anywhere. And neither is BlackBerry.“
Furthermore, John Chen has assured the public of two things: 1.) BlackBerry will still develop high-end devices, 2.) BlackBerry will still make them available for consumers to purchase. Consumers need to understand that profitability for the company remains solely in four divisions: QNX, Enterprise, Devices, and BBM. These four divisions work cohesively with one another and are the foundation of BlackBerry’s future.
Once their long-term strategy proves to be financially stable and profitable, then and only then, will we possibly see BlackBerry push into the highly competitive consumer market. Even then, they will only make that maneuver if they are confident in their ability to execute a strategy that will make them profitable in that highly competitive market. Either way, don’t worry. You’re BlackBerry addiction isn’t going anywhere. And neither is BlackBerry.
Edited by Sharon Mamolo