Comment: Bye bye Blackberry

The slow and drawn-out death of Blackberry has taken another step closer as the firm ceases designing devices in-house

Emmet Ryan

Technology Correspondent @emmetjryan
29th September, 2016
Blackberry has withered on the vine Pic: Getty

When Bewley's on Grafton St closed back in the day, albeit temporarily as it turned out, there was outcry. Most folk wanted the windows protected and felt the end of Bewley's was the loss of something special. Anyone who had actually eaten in the store in the years preceding its temporary demise would have scoffed at the notion. The scones were vile, the coffee was worse, and there's only so much a decent cup of tea can do in a market filling with diverse competitors. Bewley's was living off its name when its products had failed to remotely keep up with those around them.

Blackberry's demise looks to be far less of a short-run affair and few will actually miss it. When the firm, then known as Research in Motion, was at its peak it was at the top of the game in terms of innovation. This was a company that got what certain customers wanted and gave it to them. Email and web access, albeit basic, was a big deal on phones and being able to actually do productive tasks on them wasn't easy. Blackberry was the best at what it did and seemed content to not push the boat out.

Then along came the iPhone and the firm froze. Apple's device was, mainly because it was from Apple, not seen as a threat to Blackberry. That it would essentially launch the smartphone age and see every other firm going raise its game was clearly not something Blackberry saw coming. In fairness to them, the early days of Android were met with derision by geeks. In particularly, the geeks who decided what was allowed into a corporate infrastructure were really cold on that platform nor had they much time for iOS.

What Blackberry missed was that its customers were never those geeks, they were never the techies, they were the suits and the suits like their toys. The suits got Blackberry devices approved on corporate infrastructures because they needed their toys and the same rang true for iPhones and all kinds of Androids. The safety net Blackberry saw was an illusion and it has resulted in a phenomenal fall from grace.

Having proven to be behind the curve in terms of innovation, Blackberry never made the types of moves or bets required to restore some relevance to its products. It was entirely dependent on retaining the users who always liked them, yet these same users ended Blackberry as a relevant name on the market.

Growth strategies became survival strategies became that meme with a dog in a burning house going 'This is fine'. This week the elongated demise of Blackberry came a step closer with the firm announcing it would no longer design devices in-house. It also failed to mention in said announcement if it was going to produce any more devices for anyone ever.

Barack Obama still has a Blackberry. That's not because he's behind the times but because the US Secret Service has been waiting for his successor to be decided before permitting a sitting president to carry a smartphone. A Blackberry is just dumb enough to be safe. As a business, Blackberry was just dumb enough to be anything but.

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