HOW BLACKBERRY LOST THE PLOT

BlackBerry, once the darling of Canada, America and the corporate world elsewhere (including India) has declared that it would not be making smartphones anymore. The company said it would now focus on its software business and would outsource the handset manufacturing requirements. So if a new BlackBerry handset comes in the market, it would, per se, be not a BlackBerry – because BlackBerry was always a package deal. Its success was steered as much by its communication software as it was by its niche smartphones that made it a ‘must have’ for the corporate world.

BlackBerry also died in the wave that came with iPhone, Samsung phones and Android iOS, like Nokia, though the basics were different.

BlackBerry was always a smartphone company with its encrypted software solutions that made it a must have gadget for the corporate honchos, but something that ultimately became its nemesis. Communication is the mainstay of any business operation and BlackBerry targeted it. The strategy paid rich dividends initially. Its parent company, Research In Motion’s (RIM) shares zoomed to an all time high in 2008 and Fortune had declared RIM as the fastest growing tech company in 2009.

But that was it. It was a rapid decline after it.

The corporate and enterprise focus that had brought glory to BlackBerry soon became a black-hole for it that made every attempt to redo its strategies void – because the company was still roaming in the wilderness of mobile phone devices with efficient messaging and communication platforms (but not beyond it) while the new entrants were rapidly ramping up the mobile phone marketplace with handheld computing devices that would act as all-serving entertainment hubs – be it messaging or emails or chats or complete web browsing or a never ending app ecosystem fuelling further interest and engagement.

BlackBerry saw corporate consumers and enterprises as its base while companies like Apple, Samsung and Google saw consumers in everyone – be it a business leader or a politician or a celebrity or a common man. And their product offerings were designed keeping them in mind. They were able to cater to every class of consumer. So when a CEO found that an iPhone or a Samsung phone with Android iOS could have provided the comfort of communication that a BlackBerry device would provide and at the same time would also act as a handheld computing device offering a world of entertainment, he immediately switched to it. And BlackBerry’s fall shows it, indeed, was the case.

So, the company that was the fastest growing tech company of 2009, was sold for less than $5 Billion in 2013 and it still hovering in the range of a market cap of $5 Billion – a meteoric fall from a high of $83 Billion worth of market cap.

Though BlackBerry was a masterly combination of hardware and software, like Nokia, it failed to read the pulse of the market. Like Nokia, by the time BlackBerry realized where it erred, it had become too late. Nokia failed to move on from feature phones to smartphones while BlackBerry failed to move on from corporate-centric smartphones to people-centric handheld entertainment hubs. It clung to its trademark Qwerty smartphones too long, compromising on screen size and touch function, features that were going to be the next common in the smartphone market. By the time BlackBerry launched its first full touch-screen smartphone, it had become too late and BlackBerry’s move was seen as nothing but a poor Apple imitation attempt.

©SantoshChaubey

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