Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Dec 2013 00:23 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

RIM grew into one of the world's most valuable tech companies. The BlackBerry became the indispensable accessory of business executives, heads of state, and Hollywood celebrities - until iPhone and Android came along and spoiled the party. Today the company, which has been renamed, simply, BlackBerry, is burning through cash as sales keep falling. On Nov. 21, BlackBerry shares closed at just above $6, the lowest it's been in almost 15 years.

Over the last two months, Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to dozens of current and former BlackBerry employees, vendors, and associates. Here is their account of the thrill of BlackBerry's ascension - and the heartache of watching its demise.

Aside from of course the personal tragedies that may arise from a possible complete BlackBerry collapse, I have little to no connection to the company or its products.

Except for one product.

I hope they release it as open source before it's too late.

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The device itself feels solid, everything is responsive, nothing to complain about. Call quality is top. Camera, sound, screen are all decent to good depending on your demands, but certainly not bad.

Both the Q10 and the Z10 are very solid devices running a still young but extremely well executed OS. No argument there.

BlackBerry 10 OS seems to be very well suited as communication tool. BlackBerry has some trouble explaining the (what they call) 'BlackBerry Hub' to customers, but it's really a very nice and convenient integrated communication environment, unifying all the different communication channels and linking all communication history to contacts.

No arguments here either - I have a friend with a Z10 and the "hub" is an absolutely killer feature. Rim did this particular thing better than anyone who has tried it before.

The browser is good, every single site I need is rendered well and is usable, including Flash based sites. PDF's and office formats are supported out of the box, and my audio and video is handled correctly as well. Oh, and BBM with integrated voice and video conversations is really pretty neat, especially since it's fully integrated with everything else.

Also agreed. I think the browser could use a little refinement, but overall it is on par with mobile Safari and Chrome on Android.

What stood out most for me is the level of usability and the integration of all the different parts. Every item can be tagged, searched, shared with and linked to.

Yep. It really is well designed and though out at the OS level.

Could it be that most reviewers come from a different background and only focus on the 'smartphone' part of a device, without having any experience with or eye for the 'communicator' part?

Actually the device was, for the most part, very favorably reviewed as far as that goes - most reviews I read hit the same points you are bringing up...

So why didn't it work out? Well it is all the things you are leaving out...

1. Apps. Apps. There are none to speak of (or at least worth speaking of). Being able to sideload Android stuff is a great extra, but like it or not the majority of consumers have moved on from that. They want an app store that has what they want in it. BB's app store is filled with huge amounts of low quality crap and very little to make wadding through it worth while... This one is number one because it can't be stressed enough, smartphones live or die on their app economy. Like it or not they are no longer just communication devices - they are social networking devices. Not in the sense of things like Facebook or what-ever, I mean literally - smartphones are primarily used to enable applications of network effect. People buy them, in part, for the promise of future compatibility with their friends and colleagues. If your app store is not getting the tier one apps everyone else is using when they come out, you are doomed.

2. Business focus. They really had to play this card, as it was their only card to play, but they primarily marketed to businesses. Thing is the landscape has changed in the last few years... Businesses, for the most part, don't decide what cellphone their users' are going to use. BYOD took off like a rocket (for various reasons benefiting both parties in the equation) and it makes little sense to market you devices to businesses when they are in fact no longer really buying them. Sure, lots of them end up being utilized for business use, but it is straight up general consumers doing the buying - and they are buying them for the consumer features...

3. No diversity. They had huge amounts of variable revenue, but it was caught up in a rapidly shrinking customer base... Rim simply wasn't financially capable of doing what Microsoft is doing, because they don't have alternative revenue streams. Microsoft can fight a long protracted battle and they can afford to make little or no money in mobile for years if they have to - they have other business lines that make lots of $$$...

4. Poor strategy. BB launched their counter attack with a tablet??? At the time tablets were almost purely a consumer oriented item. A business first company with business first ethos trying to sell tablets into a market that had not figured out what to do with them yet... Bad move - they should have attacked with a phone first, they may have gotten more traction. That is just conjecture on my part, but the Z10 released when the playbook came out (before most of their business customers fleed) might have worked...

5. Mindshare. No solution to this one. They simply waited too long. It is really hard to fight the kind of momentum Apple and Google built up with their stuff. Thing is though iOS and Android weren't really their biggest problem - it was Microsoft. I don't believe BB had any hope of ever gaining enough market share to overtake Apple or Google, but they were really in a battle for 3rd place - and I don't think there will be enough money in the "rest" of the market to support more than one big player for a long time. Microsoft is what killed them in the end...

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