“One of the misconceptions about BlackBerry is that, it’s your parents’ Smartphone”- Thorsten Heins.
Around 2008, I remember watching my parents glued to their BlackBerry devices and wanting to own one. One day my wish came true and I was handed down my mom’s old BlackBerry Curve Smartphone. I used it only to play the popular Brick Breaker game and make calls or send messages, yet it was revered… that is, until the advent of Android.
When asked about their choice of mobile devices now, for most youngsters, BlackBerry is usually the least recommended device with its operating system almost outdated like the Symbian OS used by Nokia devices. Astonishingly, BlackBerry was on top of the mobile game until 2011, when the unprecedented sales of Samsung and HTC android devices along with iPhone sales led to a rapid loss of market shares for BlackBerry.
The Story of yet another Dropout
Dropping out of the course of Electrical engineering from University of Waterloo, two months before graduation, Mike Lazaridis launched Research in Motion (later renamed as BlackBerry Limited) with his childhood friend Douglas Fregin, in 1984.
The impetus to do so came from a contract he signed with General Motors to develop a network computer control display system. The funding for project came from a small government loan and some money that Mike received from his parents.
Four years later, RIM became the first wireless data technology developer in North America for Mobitex (an open, national public access wireless packet-switched data network). This was just one of the many firsts in the field of technology for Mike, as now he holds more than 30 patents for innovations in wireless technology and software.
Innovation, Emmy and an Oscar
Most of us know that Leonardo DiCaprio is yet to win an Oscar, however RIM achieved this incredible feat by winning an Academy Award in 1998, for creating a digital film barcode reader called DigiSync Film KeyKode Reader that debuted in 1990!
Leading the field for Technical Innovations, RIM was recognized for introducing the first point of sale terminal for Mobitex, with an Emmy award in 1994.
Two years later, with some help from Ericsson and RAM Mobile Data, RIM developed Mobitex wireless data network into a two way paging and wireless e-mail network. They also introduced the Inter@ctive Pager 950 that they started shipping in 1998 and competing only with Motorola. This soap bar sized device was succeeded by the well-known BlackBerry 850.
Birth and naming of Blackberry
Born in 1999, BlackBerry 850, which sported a monochrome screen and supported limited HTML browsing and email, ignited the BlackBerry craze.
Before the launch Mike Lazaridis felt that the device required a new name that differed from the regular RIM products. So he reached out to Lexicon Branding (a marketing firm) that had previously worked to carve out a name for Apple PowerBook and Intel Pentium among many others.
Wowed by the device and its features, the Lexicon President David Placek thought that it needed a name to complement its personality. The idea of BlackBerry came up when they brainstormed the product names, as from a distance the tiny buttons on the board could be mistaken as blackberries. The distinctive name helped the device stand out as it seemed user friendly and easy to remember.
Competition, Crash and Stabilization
After an incredible run with super successful handsets like BlackBerry Pearl and with support from the loyal corporate users, in June, 2012 the number of global BlackBerry users peaked at 80 million. But in 2014, the market share for BlackBerry had crashed to less than 1%.
The hardware and operating system suddenly became outdated and unappealing compared to the competition, and the browsing capabilities were poorer. Besides, due to poor feedback from users enterprises had started to adopt the “Buy your own device” policy.
Despite much speculation that BlackBerry would not be able to survive as an independent company, with a number of lay-offs, the company managed to stay afloat. Changing its business model from mobile device supplier to a software supplier for securing everything from medical devices to Hollywood movie scripts, the company managed to return to profitability in 2015.
Though Blackberry may cut down on their device launches, yet they still enjoy free endorsements from Obama, an ardent BlackBerry user, and from Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google who finds it easy to handle and type on his BlackBerry phone.
Meanwhile the company is transitioning into a software provider to address the digital security needs of its core base of clients, such as corporate executives and government officials.
– Post by Shreyashi Chakrabarti
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