What We Can Learn from BlackBerry’s Mistakes

As recently as 2009, BlackBerry – formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM) – was the darling of the smartphone world. BlackBerry's line of phones were so popular in the business world, and such an addicting form of technology, that they earned the nickname ‘CrackBerry'. However, since then, the company has become overshadowed by Apple's iPhone and the Android line of phones, running off of Google's Android operating system but manufactured by companies such as Samsung, HTC, and Nokia.

Today, BlackBerry holds less than 1% of the overall smartphone market share, a significant drop from their previous dominant position. But why did BlackBerry lose their way? The most critical mistake BlackBerry made was falling into a sense of ‘tunnel vision' and failing to adapt correctly to the new emerging smartphone customer – the average consumer.

The Fall of BlackBerry

From their lofty position in the corporate market, BlackBerry neglected to create and market cell phone technology to meet the new demands of an emerging marketplace. Consumers were eager for new, multimedia-friendly devices. With the launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007, the future of the smartphone was set. Consumers wanted touchscreens, they wanted video playback, they wanted entertainment, and with all of those things combined, the app-driven marketplace began to grow, and once again BlackBerry was nowhere to be found.

In spite of this change of consumer attitude, BlackBerry seemed to dig in their heels on their business model, focusing on creating an email and texting mobile phone while Apple and Google's partners put their energy into providing a full multimedia experience that also happened to be a smartphone. This lack of proper adaptability resulted in what was once an innovative cornerstone of the smartphone market to become little more than a footnote.

Why it Went Wrong

Understanding BlackBerry's mistakes is fairly black and white, and it doesn't require going into translating website to figure it out. Recognizing shifts in the marketplace is so important for any business and identifying trends that can steer your business is also critical. BlackBerry could see the interest surrounding the iPhone a full two years before their downfall really began, yet they neglected to react to it. BlackBerry's fall is a hard lesson in why you cannot be complacent even from atop the mountain.

The first mistake is clear. The iPhone was a completely different device than the BlackBerry and was gaining traction with the consumer market. BlackBerry assumed – incorrectly – that the consumer device wouldn't appeal to the corporate users that they knew were cornerstones of their success. At first, they may have been right, but as Apple's market share grew, so did interest from customers of every kind.

Secondly, a slow response to the growth of the app-driven market put them in a rough spot. Apple and Google had the potential to offer a diverse range of apps for video, gaming, business, and any other purpose. Due to the nature of BlackBerry's devices, they were unable to offer the same variety of apps and quickly lost whatever foothold they had with consumers.

Finally, from a purely design standpoint, BlackBerry took far too long to ultimately embrace touchscreen technology and it was quickly dismissed as a poor attempt at an iPhone. This leaves us with the lesson that the best course of action is to adapt to a changing marketplace, but even if you fail to adapt in time, remain innovative and chart your own course. BlackBerry could have remained relevant to this day by offering a unique alternative to Apple and Android, but instead their antiquated smartphones are all but a thing of the past.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Gaurav Amarnani

This guest post is courtesy of Greg Dastrup.

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