BlackBerry’s long, slow fade has reached an end point. The company announced Wednesday that it finally, officially would stop designing and producing its own smartphones. BlackBerry itself will live on as a software and services provider–which, good luck there, too–but its hardware days are kaput.
The reasons for BlackBerry’s hardware decline aren’t mysterious. The iPhone changed everything, and BlackBerry (then RIM) was too slow to change with it. It’s been years since the Waterloo-based former tech titan has released anything that resonated, despite a last-ditch embrace of Android. In fact, you’d be forgiven for not realizing they were still in the device business at all.
“That’s the stage BlackBerry has reached–many people aren’t even aware that BlackBerry still makes phones,” says Jan Dawson, chief analyst of Jackdaw Research. Even this transition is a muddled one; the company will still license its name and software out to third-party hardware vendors, as it did with the imminently forgettable DTEK50 this summer.
It may be hard to remember in 2016, but BlackBerry was once not just a dominant force, but an innovative one, with handsets beloved by businesses, politicians, and fast-typists around the world. Rather than mourn what BlackBerry has become, we’re taking a look at its entire arc through a few of its key products, from upstart to over-achiever, all the way back down to disappearing altogether.
As for the future? BlackBerry still made a big chunk of revenue from hardware. That’s gone now. And the software business holds nearly as many challenges today as hardware did 10 years ago.
“The nature of the business it’s chasing is evolving rapidly, with strong new competitors coming in,” says Dawson. “BlackBerry isn’t starting from a position of dominance this time around, so it’s less vulnerable to that kind of disruption, but it’s not going to be an easy road.”
At least this time, maybe, BlackBerry will know trouble when it sees it.