Saturday, December 10, 2016

BlackBerry exits the phone market

“It’s the end of an era,” said Brett Molina and
Jon Swartz in USA Today. BlackBerry, the
Canadian technology company that helped
usher in the mobile age with its eponymous
smartphone, has stopped manufacturing
its own devices, pivoting instead to focus
on business software. It’s the end of a long
downward slide for BlackBerry’s hardware
business, which at its peak in 2009 claimed
more than 50 percent of the U.S. smartphone
market. Today, BlackBerry’s market share sits
at less than 1 percent, its steep decline almost
perfectly mirroring the rise of iPhone and Android
devices. “Like tech pioneers before it,
BlackBerry was left behind.”
It wasn’t long ago that the BlackBerry was the “ultimate business
gadget,” said Nic Fildes in the Financial Times. The first
BlackBerry, which debuted in 1999, wasn’t a smartphone,
but a handheld device that let users send messages and emails
on the go. It took its name from the tiny keys on its built-in
QWERTY keyboard, which felt like “the pockmarks on the skin
of berry fruit,” at least according to marketing consultants. The
BlackBerry “caught fire,” and soon more features were added,
including a thumb-wheel for scrolling and the ability to make
calls. By the 2000s, legions of “Crackberry” addicts wondered
how they’d ever gotten along without it; devoted fans included
the likes of President Barack Obama and Kim Kardashian West.
“BlackBerry’s woes were in many ways a
product of its rapid and improbable success,”
said Jacquie McNish in The Wall Street
Journal. As the company, formerly known as
Research In Motion, struggled to keep up with
booming demand for the BlackBerry, especially
from the business community, it didn’t notice
that it was in danger of being surpassed by its
bigger Silicon Valley competitors. When the
iPhone debuted in 2007, BlackBerry executives
initially dismissed it as “nonsensical,” not
believing that cellular networks could deliver
the videos, photos, and other internet content
Apple was promising. That same year, Google
made its Android operating system free to handset makers, clearing
the way for the likes of Samsung “to siphon away BlackBerry
customers with lower-cost phones.”
BlackBerry’s popularity definitely made it complacent, said Vlad
Savov in TheVerge.com. While Google and Apple were transforming
the mobile industry, BlackBerry contented itself with
making minor tweaks, wrongly believing that “people would
wait for its superior product or would put up with limitations,
because, well, it’s BlackBerry.” Apple is guilty of the same kind
of hubris now, but it sells close to double the number of phones
that BlackBerry did at its zenith. Still, Blackberry’s sorry predicament
proves that even businesses at the top of the market can be
rapidly overtaken by “sprightlier newcomers.”

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