Is Blackberry dead?

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Holy Cow! Our young adult years dream phone as well as Barack Obama’s recent phone is done. The Blackberry phone, which was previously from the company Research in Motion, was at the peak of the smartphone market. They were at the top of the roost with a massive 41% market share in 2010 and that plummeted to 0.8% in 2016.

The big problem with Blackberry was their failure to see the looming problem. They were completely and totally outwitted by the iPhone and they refused to do anything about it. And they didn’t because they were their top in their field, similar to Nokia.

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If you look at companies like LG, Samsung, HTC weren’t in the big leagues and they immediately pivoted. It is pretty sad because the Blackberry phones were in the top leagues and advanced for their times, their innovation was incremental.

Blackberry has announced that they will stop making any hardware in the future. This means, from the stable of Blackberry we won’t be seeing another phone. The brand will still continue to exist because Alcatel, the Chinese company is creating the next set of Blackberry phones that will be sold under the Blackberry brand.

The only thing Blackberry will be doing now is creating the software and other ancillary applications.

The Lesson we need to Learn

The story of Blackberry is a very cautionary tale. It also shows the ruthless nature of business. It just shows, keeping a company alive is hard, even though it was thriving. Keeping your eyes and ears open and being aware of the trend could have easily helped Blackberry establish themselves as the third party in this competition between Android and the iPhone.

When the iPhone was launched in 2007, it was such an immense spectacle. It was safe to say that the product went viral. The Blackberry makers had 3 years to figure out a similar line and strategy. Here are two of their main failures.

They looked at pure numbers – After the launch of the iPhone, Blackberry wouldn’t have lost any money or even market share. In fact they had such a healthy share for three years. They purely looked at it as a numbers game and they did not see the potential of the iPhone and how people will flock to it. Looking at just the numbers brought them down.

Another reason was the lack of experimentation prowess. Why wouldn’t Blackberry experiment with a similar phone? In 2013, when the value of their patents was measured it was close to $2Billion to $3Billion. A company that could have the technical know-how to create patents of so much value, surely they had the know how to dismantle an iPhone and see how it was made. Everybody else jumped into it.

Andy Grove, the Ex-CEO of Intel titled his book “Only the Paranoid Survive”. This is a very important lesson in business. You can never keep your eyes or ears closed, you can never be arrogant about your ideas, you can never be sure about your own products being better than others even if they are number one.

It’s lessons like these that teach future entrepreneurs how to build stronger and better businesses.