You know when you’ve reached the end of an era: Cadbury’s stop making the crème egg; birds decide that trees are passes and BlackBerry call and an end to mobile phones. Yes, it’s that time. The Canadian company which helped to bring in the smartphone nearly twenty years ago has decided that their operations are going to switch – and phones no longer hold the valued place they once did.
In the second quarter of this year, BlackBerry phones only sold 400,000 units – a tiny drop in what was once a BlackBerry cordial that covered the earth and 50% of all sales. At the same time, Apple alone sold over 40 million iPhone units.
BlackBerry has reached the end of a slow, gradual decline that has been the mirror fortune of Apple and Android phones. The signature deal of a QWERTY keyboard and intricate software has now been supplanted. BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, has indicated that the company will aim at software development, including the ever-growing app and security.
A loyal fan-base has slowly turned away, especially from those in the security industry on which BlackBerry made its initial gain. Frankly, the phone went beyond the limited view that BlackBerry had: beyond email, messages, and security. Today, the phone is based largely on apps. This failure to anticipate the changes in the market are essentially its failing – and it has had a hard price to pay; the company’s value has plunged from a high of $83 billion to a low of just over $4 billion.
It wasn’t though as if the company had done nothing to try and change things. In 2013, there was an effort to introduce a new smartphone, but the failure was probably inevitable due to the poor quality of the BlackBerry 10 operating software, and thus the phone itself. It cost billions in profit – and the job of the then CEO, Thorsten Heins. While emphasising the security, the company was pressured into offering governments a back-door, or face exclusion. This meant that the security the phone system promised, was an empty one.
Chen, the new CEO, has promised a move towards software development – a shift that has been promised by Chen since he assumed control. This drift towards software offers the company the opportunity to make up on its margins and build revenue. BlackBerry has been producing phones for over 14 years now, but the decline has been more than just a thought – it has been inevitable. Blackberry has since announced that it will contract out all hardware development to its variety of partners.
So, a new phone from Blackberry? It’s hard to say – the company hasn’t yet announced whether the block on producing phones means that new phones won’t be developed – but Chen has said unofficially that the development of new phones is a possibility. Whether this is a promise that’s bound to market needs or just the personal plans of a rogue CEO, only time will tell. And as everyone in the smartphone market knows, that’s a hard concept to sell.