The rise and fall of technology can happen
incredibly quickly. What was the latest tech or ‘must have’ device yesterday
can quickly become a footnote in history today. The latest announcement by
BlackBerry is a classic example of this process.

BlackBerry took the world by storm back in
the nineties. It was 18 September 1996 when the first two-way pager was
introduced by Research in Motion (RIM). More importantly, on 19 January 1999
the world we live in was changed forever when RIM introduced the BlackBerry
850. The 850 was the first device to integrate email and forever committed the
world of mobile users to never again be out of touch. Some may argue this is a
bad thing…

BlackBerry has just announced that it will no
longer produce its BlackBerry Classic model – the very phone that it launched
only 18 months ago to help save its ailing business. This particular model had
been designed to appeal to longstanding BlackBerry fans. At its peak – in
September 2013 – there were 85 million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide. That
number dropped to 23 million by March this year.

In the early days, the BlackBerry paved the
way for capped data plans and as much e-mail as you could consume on your
device. In Australia data plans were capped at approximately $50. They designed
an incredibly clever system of routing traffic via BlackBerry Servers located
across the world and compressing the e-mail into data frugal streams. I
remember being at a Microsoft conference many years ago with my BlackBerry
device and a Microsoft executive questioned why I wasn’t using a Microsoft
mobile device. I explained that I was waiting for a capped data plan for the
Microsoft device that would match the BlackBerry. One never was made available.

In the technology world, as in any industry,
it is crucial to continue to innovate and stay ahead of the field. When other
providers started delivering what BlackBerry had – and added a touch more – the
writing was on the wall. BlackBerry’s competitive advantage was lost and they
just didn’t deliver the next big thing.

With the announcement of the retirement of
the Classic and the decision to make an Android smartphone, it seems like a
desperate bid to grab a small chunk of the smartphone market it used to

I can’t tell you what the future may hold for
BlackBerry but in my time in the mobile phone industry, I have seen clear
market leaders of Motorola then Nokia then BlackBerry then Apple and possibly
now Samsung. In each case, the market leader forgot that to stay number one you
have to act like you are number two.

 Mathew Dickerson

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