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Apple ate the BlackBerry

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013

In the New Yorker, Vauhini Vara muses upon “How BlackBerry Fell“. She mentions the real reason early in the piece. (Hint: It’s a five-letter word beginning with “A”):

“Shares in the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones peaked in August of 2007, at two hundred and thirty-six dollars. In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware. Seven months earlier, in January, Apple had introduced the iPhone at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Executives at BlackBerry, then called Research in Motion, decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers that bought the devices for employees. ‘In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,’ the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, ‘I would think that’s overstating it.'”

Yummy! Blackberries Vara adds: “BlackBerry, of course, wasn’t the only company that made the mistake of ignoring the iPhone and the revolution it portended: engineers at Nokia, which, years earlier, had introduced a one-pound smartphone, dismissed the iPhone because, among other reasons, it failed to pass a test in which phones were dropped five feet onto concrete over and over again, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. Microsoft C.E.O. Steve Ballmer actually laughed at the iPhone. ‘It doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard,’ he said. Nokia and Microsoft, which are now building smartphones in partnership with each other, have, like BlackBerry, seen their share of the market shrink.”

Long before Vauhini Vara came to this conclusion, John Gruber identified the rot at the heart of RIM. On 9 May 2008, he wrote “BlackBerry vs. iPhone” and nailed it beautifully here: “RIM doesn’t really have any lock-in other than user habits. The BlackBerry gimmick is that it works with the email system your company bought from Microsoft. Replace a BlackBerry with an iPhone (2.0) and the messages, contacts, and calendar events that sync over the network will be the same as the ones on the BlackBerry you just tossed into a desk drawer.”

RIP RIM.


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