2012 Trend Spotting: Grieving Blackberry

Chart ws stock researchinmotionltd 20111216123240 top
Image by CNN

By all accounts, 2012 will be the year that Blackberry’s decline dramatically increases. Most analysts and even parent company Research In Motion’s SEC filings see Blackberry dropping out of the top tier of smartphones, surrendering the market to the Apple iPhone and the many Google Android operating system-based phones.

Because Blackberry has been a very strong brand, one that basically brought the Internet to phones in the form of email and casual web browsing, expect to hear a lot of complaining. People love their Blackberries!

But unfortunately, the company was never able to respond to tactile input technology and the subsequent mobile application revolution created by Apple and then Google. Users have little choice with Blackberry’s increasingly obsolete operating systems if they want a modern smartphone with the best technology.

The decline has been an ugly one. When the iPhone first launched, Blackberry was slow to react, chugging along with its 1.0 email monster.

BlackBerry Storm
Image by StrebKR

Finally, after the phone took off, Blackberry began to evolve towards touch screen interfaces. By then Android had launched. While Android is often considered an iPhone knock off, it was extremely competitive from an innovation standpoint and cost effective. It became the iPhone answer instead of a touch Blackberry.

Research In Motion responded by cutting costs to incredibly low levels, which buoyed sales into 2011. However, low costs, a revamped operating system and attempts to build a Blackberry only mobile social network and application marketplace have failed to stem the iPhone Android tide.

The final blow appears to be the failure to deliver yet another new operating system — Blackberry 10 — until late 2012. With market share rapidly deteriorating, Blackberry needed a turn around now, not in nine to 12 months. And so it seems apparent that in 2012 we will be hearing a lot about Research In Motion and Blackberry’s fall from grace, and their desperate last attempt to stay relevant.

Grieving Blackberry

Personally, I have never really liked the Blackberry platform. Instead, I preferred a Palm or Windows phone during the 1.0 era, and the iPhone and Android phones in the 2.0 era.

RIM Bullfrog

However, as a wireless reporter in the late 90s, I remember Research In Motion when it launched. The original Research in Motion device, a Bullfrog, was this innovative clam shell pager with a QWERTY keyboard. It was the size of a Big Mac!

Soon after they added voice capability, and became a start-up legend offering a phone that beat the big boys like Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung. The Blackberry revolutionized telecommunications, just as its current nemesis the iPhone has. It’s place in history should not be forgotten.

What are your memories of the Blackberry?


  • Today is actually my third or fourth day post-Blackberry. It still graces my nightstand, awaiting cleanup and storage for international travel to places where free wi-fi isn’t readily available. 

    I miss some of the simple, seamless things it did, and the vastly superior battery life. It’s incredibly ironic we have these powerful mobile devices, yet find ourselves increasingly needing to have a charging cord in the car or at the office in order to make it through a day of decent use. 

    • One of their biggest mistakes was to not take advantage of the BBM factor. If they had marketed that properly and early, they could have been talking a different marketshare today.

    • I can hear the attachment in the comment.  It’s a common sentiment from the power Blackberry user.  I think the other phone manufacturers could benefit from reverse engineering RIM’s processes and device.

      • You’re right, Geoff. RIM has served me well over the last 4-5 years. Some of the differences are so small as to feel petty, though.

        An example, setting up different notification tones for email/SMS/twitter/calls was a piece of cake. Likewise, setting those notifications to vibrate when the phone is silent was fairly intuitive. What I miss, however, is being able to customize the vibration depending on notification. And there was a convenient LED on the case to catch my eye when the phone was sitting on my desk and I had headphones on.

        Today, I’m rocking a fairly high end Samsung Galaxy S2. It’s incredibly faster and more powerful, it’s got a better screen, and does so much more, but I miss text messages because I simply don’t know I have them without unlocking the phone and opening an app. In time, I’m sure I’ll adapt to the difference, but right now I’m running into a little cognitive dissonance. :P

  • I had a Bold 9700 and it was good. Then I moved to Samsung Galaxy S on Android, and never looked back.

    RIM’s problem has been simple – co-CEO’s rarely work well together, especialy two as headstrong/stubborn as the guys there now. Add to the fact they felt too big to fail, and the mess that was Playbook, and the writing’s been on the wall for a while now.

    As someone ensconced in the Canadian business and tech scene, it’s still sad to see. Hopefully someone can buy their patents and keep some of what worked alive.

    • They still have a ton of equity on the table as you mentioned with the patents.  I do hope they make a management change.  Clearly it is warranted.  Great insights into the executive leadership, Danny!

  • Love the article and I have been a Blackberry user since they were first marketed outside Canada. You are right they were there first and managed to ‘get’ what people wanted in mobile browsing and connectivity ahead of everyone else. Makes it all the more sad to see that they lost the plot so badly, not just in letting market share slip but in one bad business decision after another. Even worse, their mishandling of their PR over their last outage showed a company that’s lethargic, unable to respond to its core users and unable to come up with any answers when they matter the most. They made the top slot on my: 2011 Top Ten Social Media DisastersLink text list.

    • Wow, I didn’t realize how bad the slide was.  It’s really terrible, kind of like watching an Uncle lose their way. :/  Thanks for sharing the story.

  • I’m sad about this as a giant Canadian success story gone down hill, but have never been much of a BB fan myself. 

    I do remember my dad getting one of these back when he worked at either Digital or Compaq but it was soon after recalled:

    • Sometimes companies have second lives, Apple sure did.  We’ll see what happens, but this iteration has passed it appears.

  • Thank you for making this site very interesting! Keep going! You’re doing very well!

  • The Blackberry was my first smartphone, my first post-Nokia/LG clamshell phone used only for talking and texting. I bought the thing in August 2008 specifically because I was driving to a government conference in Albany NY and didn’t want to bring my then-heavy laptop to take notes.

    I had fun with the berry for about approximately 30 months until I left RIM and Verizon which powered it, and switched to T-Mobile and their G2 phone, running Android. The G2 shortly gave me a programming bug, which I exchanged for the myTouch 4G which I’ve had since the summer and I love it even more than the Blackberry.

    The Blackberry had better battery life than my Android, but that’s due to an aftermarket battery install by Seidio.

  • I loved my BB 850 (Big Mac pager) and I have loved every other BB model I have owned – until the Torch. What a dog. It boggles the mind that they did not come out with a touch screen, candy bar qwerty keyboard iphone killer 3 years ago. The BB 9900 is too little, too late. I am suffering with the BB 9700 until Motorola Xprt (or something along those lines) works on AT&T. What a disappointment. 

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