When you take a closer look at Research in Motion's (RIM, now BlackBerry) growth trajectory, it is possible to draw an analogy with Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan's life. Lovingly called 'Big B' by fans, his acting career reached dizzying levels of stardom until the early 90s. However, a long string of flops, the arrival of a younger breed of actors--especially the Khans, and bankruptcy made trade pundits and those watching his career closely predict that he had reached the 'point of no return'.
However, Big B shot back to fame with "Mohabbatein" and became a household name as the inimitable host of the game show "Kaun Banega Crorepati." The transformation was a success, and the phoenix had risen from the ashes.
The Crest and Trough in BlackBerry's Story
Research in Motion (RIM) has a similar story (did you notice that both Big B and BlackBerry are BBs?). But unlike in Bachchan's life, RIM's success story started in the 90s.
Their dogged pursuit of innovation in wireless data communication led to the creation of a true (because it was wireless) personal data assistant (PDA) -- the RIM 900 Inter@ctive Pager. The inclusion of a physical keyboard in the next iteration -- 950 -- introduced the world to its first real BlackBerry device. It had 'hit' written all over it. First to the party and early-adopters were the professionals at Wall Street. The device could sync e-mails on the move; what else could they ask for?
It was a smooth ride for the company until 2007, when the turtle-necked messiah of Apple--an indirect competitor, announced the iPhone. Its advent led to people's getting attracted to touch-based portable devices like kids' taking to candy. Adding to RIM's woes were the entry and subsequent phenomenal sales of Android phones and internal management issues that plagued the growth of a company that stood for innovation.
Also read: BlackBerry 10 OS Will Have Multi-Layered Security Model
BlackBerry phones were no longer cutting it in a market filled with cheap and faster smartphones. They were turning into mere 'alternatives' -- a position you don't want to be in the world of mobile phones.
Reinventing was the only option that remained, and BlackBerry chose just that. This reinvention started with acquiring QNX systems in April 2010. QNX has a long history in the embedded systems market. A version of QNX is the underlying base for BlackBerry's failed tablet -- the Playbook. However, QNX is at the heart of the BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system (OS) featured in the recently unveiled flagship smartphones: Z10 and physical keypad-totting Q10. In a bold move and for reasons unknown, RIM is now BlackBerry. "One brand, one promise," is their new motto or that is what Thorsten Hein, the smartphone-maker's CEO is propagating anyway.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.