The BlackBerry stops here

Published: October 18, 2010
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This is the way this enterprise ends: not with a bang but a whimper

This is the way this enterprise ends: not with a bang but a whimper

The BlackBerry is struggling to stay relevant. The cracks became visible when they started deviating from their usual advertising strategy and started trying to get non-corporate users to give its platform a try.

Maybe this was because Research in Motion (Rim), the company that makes the smartphones, knew that The Nielsen Company, Gartner, IDC and ChangeWave (all incredibly respected technology analysis firms) would be analysing their negative sales trends and letting the industry know of the clear decline in consumerist love for their product.

And this is not because smartphones are dying – their sales are now a quarter of the US mobile market according to Nielsen, which predicts they will outsell all other kinds of phones by the end of 2011.

Another study, reported by The Times’ Bits blog, puts smartphone growth at 64 per cent in the second quarter of this year alone.

The BlackBerry was a great idea back in the day. It was a corporate weapon, giving business users access to their email away from the computers. Their enterprise server and ‘push’ email technology ensured that an email was received almost as soon as it was sent.

It was always on and always connected. It was intuitive and more importantly, easy to use. They said that ‘even your dad could learn to use it’.

BlackBerry even made sure that their data was secure with 128 bit security. The BlackBerry Messenger was one of the phone chat clients, allowing users to chat on the go and making every legitimate owner a part of the larger BlackBerry community.

The only problem is that now other smartphones do everything that the BlackBerrys can, and usually better. These new phones house processors that are as fast as those found in personal computers a few years back.

Apple and Android smartphones offer push emails and are incredibly easy to use. They give you unlimited access to the internet via 3G connections and they have chat clients that surpass the BlackBerry equivalent in every possible way. Just imagine having MSN, Yahoo and every chat messenger service on the internet, simultaneously at your fingertips.

Security-wise, smartphones can be as safe as they want.  Forrester Research has found that the iPhone is now secure enough and meets the criteria of most corporate IT departments.

Standard Chartered, for example, is replacing the BlackBerry – its current standard corporate communications device – with the iPhone, according to Reuters. This move could eventually result in thousands of bankers, and eventually other corporations, switching to other smartphones for their on-the-go business communication needs.

A recent advertisement showed men in black suits singing about with their Blackberry, when a bunch of very non-corporate types start pouring in, dancing and singing along with them. The men in suits seemed pretty disconcerted and surprised because they are no longer the focus of the company.

Ironically, this is precisely how Rim must feel like right now: outgunned, out of their element and not the focus of every business consumer.

Not to suggest that the company, or its products, are dead. It just means that they will have to take a new approach to compete with other smartphones that may have surpassed the BlackBerry on many counts.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • EchoCave
    Oct 19, 2010 - 1:49AM

    This is the first article I’ve read on my Blackberry since I got it…. Which was 2 days ago. Thanks Omair!Recommend

  • Ahsan
    Oct 19, 2010 - 4:05AM

    Excellent article. Love the title and the photo, gr8 concept. I feel that iPhone & Android will dominate the market for next 5 years……… its an evolving market, and only Apple, Google, and Facebook (yes! i know its not a smartphone co. – YET) are flexible enough to adapt to change as rapidly as it is needed these days.

    Samsung & LG are experts at copy-cat (at great speeds), so they will also survive. I don’t know if Sony-Ericsson is making smartphones yet but I feel this company is doomed. HP stands a good chance of gobbling up lots of cash from smartphones IF it quickly hops-in big-time on the smartphone bandwagon. Blackberry has a future as bleak as Creative, a Singaporian company that, in its heyday, dominated the CD-ROM market but has spiraled down into non-existence. Microsoft Windows mobile, like Zune and a zillion other products, will fail once again..Recommend

  • T
    Oct 19, 2010 - 10:57AM

    sorry omair..blackberry still rocks..its ease of communication is unmatched to iFfffffone and the ENDroid.. your have wasted your time.. try writing something about Japanese cartoons.Recommend

  • amir
    Oct 19, 2010 - 12:57PM

    blackberry still looks very attractive to so many young professionals and i think many will continue to buy it. Most of the professionals are not into having Iphone, at least that’s the way it is in Pakistan.

    And one more thing, we’d have to look at stats to see what they say.

    AmirRecommend

  • Deen Sheikh
    Oct 19, 2010 - 3:46PM

    Dear Omair,
    Good Day to you. Thank you for writing this piece and highlighting to the audience or the readers of the Express Tribune about some ground realities in the market for smart phones. I for one would like to add, it would be music to my ears, it would be a treat for the eyes to see the blackberry as a smart phone in decline. Not just because other smart phones are technologically superior and more user friendly than the blackberry, but also because of what the blackberry has started to symbolise in Pakistan. It has become somewhat a status symbol ordeal to be in possession of a blackberry PIN and be a user of the blackberry messenger. The blackberry messenger is essentially the blackberry’s only real unique selling point, but at the end of the day, it is just an instant messenger, just a chat application on the go on your mobile phone. Believe it or not 9 out of 10 blackberry users I know amongst my circles in Karachi, got the blackberry solely to be on the blackberry messenger, one after the other, they just kept giving into peer pressure. For example, who guy or a girl, whose seen as the cool one in the pack, he or she gets a blackberry, others follow, as the number of non users diminish. I for one took a stand against this peer pressure. It did not feel like a really logical decision buying an expensive smart phone just for an exclusive IM. I made the decision to buy the Apple Iphone, and I am beyond happy with it. I feel like I have made the right choice. I personally think the Android though has a future for itself in Pakistan, due to its Open source nature, and the fact that Zong just recently launched the Ideos Android phone which is just 16000 rupees,with the latest OS and costing only a fraction of what other Android based smart phones cost. Ive personally seen the new IDEOS, it is excellent incredible value for money, I know for sure what my second phone is going to be.Recommend

  • Omair Zeeshan
    Oct 19, 2010 - 5:07PM

    @T

    is that you taimur ? You are such a fanboi..
    And ease of use/communication is relative.
    You would know if you bothered to try the android.Recommend

  • T
    Oct 20, 2010 - 3:25PM

    omair im not taimur..i will tell you myself ;)Recommend

  • Jay
    Oct 21, 2010 - 12:05PM

    Completely agree that RIM’s (Research In Motion) Blackberry has taken on the wrong approach in tackling its competitors within the smart-phone category. Instead of capitalizing on its ‘professional’ look/USP and re-iterating that its the ONLY smart-phone for professionals, they have tried to move towards the younger market to expand their consumer base. However, expansion in a new market has resulted in a loss of core strength.

    Another mistake that RIM is making now that it has gone in troubled waters (fighting against brands that are better equipped to cater to the youth) is that it is trying to compete on specific features rather than core strengths; RIM with its tablet has tried to go on professionalism, however, it has also stated things like ‘Flash compliant’ which in other words means ‘Look I am better than Apple’. RIM needs to go back to the drawing board and focus on what/who it was created for.

    As far as Blackberry Messenger is concerned, I agree that most individuals now a days want to get a Blackberry for BBM. In fact there are a lot of individuals who get a Blackberry for the sake of looking ‘professional’ and ‘important’ and ‘busy’.
    But think about this for a second. This is what BB’s emotional appeal has always been about. It is unfortunate that RIM is NOT capitalizing on this (old) trend and reaffirming that cutting-edge communication is ONLY possible with a Blackberry (reality might beg to differ but that is popular perception regarding the smart-phone). Making it fun to make it relevant will only result in the destruction of the brand as the author has correctly pointed out.

    Apple’s CEO recently hinted that RIM is not even on their radar anymore. I personally think if RIM goes back to its roots, it can still be a force to be reckoned with.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh
    Oct 21, 2010 - 1:45PM

    There is nothing unique about the blackberry at this point, market to market it differs though. As far as Pakistan is concerned, I agree with above poster that people are buying it to look busy, important and professional. While amongst the youth I would like to reiterate people are buying it cause of its social snob appeal, which includes having a BBm Pin and be on the BBM. I see Android taking Over in the smart phones market next, thanks to this Very Affordable Android 2.2 phone courtesy of Zong, which is half of the price of comparable Android phones, plus Android is Open source, and you can pick and choose your internet package to use with it, not like the BB, for which you need to pay 1000-1200 depending on your provider for BIS, this is in addition to the Post Pay Fixed Charges. Unlimited Internet on Post Pay without Blackberry Services costs half of that.Recommend

  • Jay
    Oct 21, 2010 - 5:29PM

    There is a common denominator between products like cars and phones as far as perception is concerned; They represent who you are. They reflect your lifestyle, habits, and even how you like to spend you time. Brands play on this all over the world. Hence, I think it is a little unfair to relate this ‘prestige-factor’ to only our society. Sure we may be pretentious and want to be ‘cool’, but as far as a BB-purchase is concerned, we are acting like consumers all over the world. Also I think people have the same reasons to buy a Blackberry and an iPhone (its ‘cool’).

    As far as market dynamics are concerned, price will be the ultimate driver of purchase as the last poster correctly pointed out. Taking the same argument forward, If the iPhone was brought to Pakistan with subsidized deals like those abroad, you can say bye bye to all Android OS devices (BB as well). I say this because even though Android devices are ‘open-source’ (read: fragmented), they have significant disadvantages when compared to ‘closed-source’ (read: integrated).

    Also I think Blackberry’s ‘BBM’ CAN definitely be considered a USP even though it may have the same functions as any instant messengers. Competitors have already realized this. That is why devices like iPhones now have ‘Whats app’, a messenger that can be downloaded on numerous devices other than iPhones.
    Functional benefits have not been the selling point for contemporary brands (first generation iPods technically had the same functions as an MP3 player). If Blackberry can sell the messenger as a ‘customized’, ‘high-powered’, ‘secure’ service, they still have a chance to capitalize sales to consumers who buy BBs only for the messenger.

    I still believe RIM will do better if it focused on ‘professionalism’ rather than anything else. Lets see what happens. Recommend

  • Omair Zeeshan
    Oct 22, 2010 - 11:28PM

    @Deen Sheikh
    Even though i wrote the article saying that blackberry is dead, i would still like to point out that consumers in Pakistan are very late to pick up on trends and drop them.
    Case in point, Cultus’ are still more popular than vitz/swift; which are both pretty decently reviewed and received cars.
    So, blackberry in Pakistan will go on for quite a while, even if most countries prone to early adoption start forgetting them.

    But you and i dont have to like it one bit :)Recommend

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