Time to take BlackBerry off life support8/10/2016
The BlackBerry is dead. It doesn’t matter that it once dominated the planet. The classic BlackBerry design — with a half screen, half physical keyboard and a mouse-like selector button — is toast.
Many companies have been stubborn about their importance and style, but few have gone down with the ship. Ford famously opened the door to competitors in the early 20th century when it refused to sell cars that weren’t painted black. Apple was so stubborn about its locked-in computing environment that its second home computer nearly sunk the company. But in these examples, both companies eventually reversed course and re-cemented their dominance as leading names in their industry. BlackBerry must have known it was way off course trying to sell phones with a physical keyboard in 2010, let alone 2016.
BlackBerry may not be publicly stating exactly what is happening internally, but if you’ve seen the last hour of James Cameron’s “Titanic,” there’s little doubt. BlackBerry hit an iPhone iceberg in the mid-2000s and has been sinking slowly into chilly, bankrupt waters ever since. As it stands, BlackBerry only rivals Microsoft for market share irrelevance with both platforms holding less than 1 percent of global market share. Of course, Microsoft can completely shutter its smartphone efforts and be fine, but BlackBerry has nothing beyond its mobile devices. Think Titanic isn’t an apt metaphor? What do you think is going to happen next?
While BlackBerry was riding the business user wave of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nokia and Motorola were commanding the consumer seas. Where is Nokia today? Well, in 2013 it was acquired by Microsoft, stripped for parts and written off as nearly an $8 billion failure in 2016. Motorola, on the other hand, seemed to be on track to stay relevant, as it had the first line of successful Android phones in the late 2000s and eventually was acquired by Google for more than $12 billion. Of course, happy endings are only a matter of where the story ends. Google did to Motorola exactly what Microsoft did to Nokia. Motorola was pillaged for its patents and sold to Lenovo for a bargain price of $3 billion.
If tech’s history is any indication, BlackBerry’s days are numbered. If both Microsoft and Google have already made their acquisition missteps, look for another mobile hopeful to dress down BlackBerry. Which one is anyone’s guess. Maybe Facebook or possibly Snapchat. Look for someone who wants in on the smart device war but is light on intellectual property patents. At this point, that is most certainly the most valuable thing BlackBerry owns.
But as BlackBerry sinks into the tech ocean, let’s remember its former greatness. At one time, Blackberry nearly held half the global mobile market and everyone loved their “crackberry.” But in 2016, the Blackberry era is over. ■
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.