Remember The Blackberry? Here’s What The One-Time Top Phone Maker Is Up to These Days

By  |  December 19, 2019

Ten years ago, the term ‘smartphone’ mostly served as a synonym used to refer to mobile devices manufactured by a top phone maker that had a claim to up to 30 percent of the global market share.

This top phone maker was thought to be ahead of its time and its phones were considered the ultimate status symbol. But over the course of the last 10 years, much has changed and those phones almost never get thought of in conversations about smartphones today.

Remember the Blackberry? Yes, there was nothing cooler than exchanging BBM PINs and texting on full QWERTY keyboards back then. The smartphone term was actually first used to refer to Blackberry phones. Those devices were basically bossing a market that is now dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung. 

And The Blackberry Buble Burst

But a lot can change in a decade, at least, that’s one lesson that has been learned since the Blackberry bubble burst. Even though Blackberry phones first owned the smartphone scene, the brand has been swept away by the competition due to its own slowness to move and innovate. 

Interestingly, its assassins were an advertising company, Google, and a design company, Apple — both companies dynamic and nimble enough to realise early enough that mobile phones would eventually become a route to a large collection of apps and services and big colourful touchscreens would ultimately win the battle.

Well, Blackberry stuck to its principles of security-before-functionality, maybe a little longer than it should have. And that may have been its undoing. Blackberry suffered a coup de grace that may have been of its own making and the competition left it for dead. Today, Blackberry phones have virtually vanished from use in the technology world.

But Blackberry is not dead. If anything, it is undead, showing what life looks like for a one-time top dog that went down in flames and is now rising from the ashes like the Phoenix. Blackberry still exits, just not the way it used to.

So, What Is Blackberry Up To These Days?

Blackberry’s chief executive, John Chen, who has been in charge since 2013, was recently interviewed by Olivia Rudgard of The Telegraph.

From his submissions in the interview, it is clear that Blackberry moved away from the handset and hardware segments which it once controlled alongside the likes of Motorolla and Ericsson.

Blackberry has switched to providing security software for cars, power plants and even the international space station.

According to Chen, the company’s software is used by all of the G7 countries, three-quarters of Fortune 100 companies, and is in 150 million cars. It’s an interesting yet necessary move for a company previously known for its consumer hardware.

But the CEO who assumed the role six years ago maintains that the move from consumer hardware products to corporate tech products wasn’t something the company expressly jumped into because they had been beat.

“I wouldn’t say that I was thinking about talking to power plants. I do know that I was going to talk about securing endpoints because a lot of the DNA of BlackBerry is actually in that area – cryptology, security, businesses, enterprises, communications,” he says.

Interestingly, the company still has branded phones with the trademark full keyboard, which runs on the Android operating system, though mostly used by corporates.

It is understood that the arrangement is such that BlackBerry only provides the software, while electronics company, TCL, makes the hardware. 

The latest Blackberry phone in the market is the Key2. It was released in 2018 and sold for a pricey USD 755.88, with a cheaper version on sale for USD 455.62.

But Blackberry Is Still Struggling

While the recent fuss around security and data privacy from the top phone makers of today’s world offers some vindication for Blackberry’s earlier focus security, Blackberry’s CEO told The Telegraph that such a vindication is hardly any respite for a company with ailing finances.

“We feel vindicated but we don’t have money! I guess vindication is the first step, [but] you know, I need some money. I achieved my moral obligation but I need the financial obligation,” he says.

Indeed, Blackberry is not exactly doing great at the business end of things. The company, which is expected to report results for the three months to November 30 this Friday, lost USD 44 Mn in the previous quarter, eclipsing the profit of USD 43 Mn from the previous year.

Also, Blackberry’s shares are down by almost 30 percent since September. That was when the company released its most recent financials; further indication that the company has never quite recovered since its fall from grace.

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