As a small Canadian tech startup back in 1984, Blackberry Limited (formerly known as Research In Motion) in about 15 years time, grew to an undeniably iconic $20 Billion multinational telecom giant, only to steadily decline to being worth $1.20 billion with little to no noticeable commercial presence today.
From laying the foundation of the smartphone industry with over 50% market share to less than 1% currently, Blackberry’s historic rise and turbulent fall serves as an example of what happens when a company radically disrupts a market only to be outpaced by other competitors who simply innovated better and faster than they could keep up with.
Blackberry pretty much pioneered truly instant mobile communication from wireless point of sale hardware, to two-way pagers, to the iconic tactile keyboards of the Blackberry smartphones. Blackberry’s steady decline has been attributed to a number of factors. Apple’s introduction into the smartphone market in 2007 with the first fully touchscreen phone actually had little initial impact on Blackberry’s sales as Blackberry continued to see growth well into 2011.
To put it simply, Blackberry stopped innovating and when they did do something new, it was done poorly.
Blackberry’s business model did not account for a rapidly changing marketplace. When compared to their early days, the telecom giant no longer set the trends and became a symbol of what was outdated in the industry. For many, Blackberry became too big to adjust quickly enough to remain competitive in a market they helped develop.
Unfortunately, Blackberry leadership also simply did not take the competition seriously. So much so that Blackberry changed its CEO twice before deciding to stop making smartphones in 2016.
Fortunately, unlike former telecom giants like Nokia and Palm, Blackberry has avoided complete collapse through corporate acquisitions, restructuring and slow changes in its business model. Currently, Blackberry is now focused primarily on licensing agreements, cybersecurity, software and the emerging market of the Internet of things.
The Canadian government recently announced its $40 million investment in Blackberry with a focus on improving the security and safety of connected and autonomous cars. This is a drastic change in strategy and suggests Blackberry hopes to position itself as a forerunner in this new and promising market.
BlackBerry is currently celebrating their 35th year anniversary boasting an expanding software presence in everything from smart watches, cars and trains, to robots, medical devices, TV broadcast equipment and even wind turbines.
Whether or not this means Blackberry will once again be a leader in a new market has yet to be seen. What it does show is that Blackberry has learned its lessons and is betting big to hopefully once again be a leader at the cutting edge of technology.