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Fade to Black(Berry): 8 years covering the rise and fall of RIM

Al Sacco | Oct. 9, 2013
Al Sacco says goodbye to the company he intimately covered for more than eight years.

What Went Wrong for BlackBerry?
In my interview with Thorsten Heins in June 2012, I asked what went wrong with BlackBerry. I hear that question a lot. In fact, I was discussing it with IDG Communications CEO Michael Friedenberg yesterday. (CIO.com is part of IDG Communications.) It's the million-dollar BlackBerry question.

The answer may seem like a copout, but everything went wrong.

The entire landscape changed. BlackBerry didn't.

Most importantly, control shifted dramatically from IT/enterprise/business/corporate/whatever to the user. Apple and Samsung, with iOS and Android, respectively, exemplify this shift. Apple and Samsung, the two leading mobile-device makers, make devices for consumers, and they - or third parties - fill enough of the gaps to make those devices work for the enterprise. To a flaw, BlackBerry has always put the enterprise first and filled the consumer gaps later. Even now, it says it's going to cater specifically to "prosumers." That term presumably means "professional consumers," but the fact of the matter is that professionals and consumers are now mostly one and the same, and BlackBerry still doesn't get it.

Marketing was a weak point for BlackBerry from the start, too. Though advertising, marketing and everything that's associated with these things are largely lipstick on the pig at this point, there was a time when savvy, intelligent marketing could have really helped BlackBerry change its perception in the market. Instead, the company hired celebrities, including John Mayer, U2, Will.i.am and, most recently, Alicia Keys to tell people it was "cool." But people didn't believe them.

I'll end this post by saying I'm not sure there was anything BlackBerry could have done to "save itself." Some things aren't long for this world, no matter how big, how important, how wealthy, how cool or how hard people try to make them succeed.

BlackBerry isn't dead yet. But it's dying. (Three hundred pink slips are reportedly being distributed in Waterloo this week, and more than 4,000 more will be handed out over the coming year.) And I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

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