The Downfall of BlackBerry: What Went Wrong?

The Downfall of BlackBerry

Blackberry Limited, or Research In Motion (RIM) as it was called till January 2013 comes with a long lineup of extreme successes and heartbreaking failures. Considered to be the pioneer of smartphones on a global scale, it wasn’t hard for Blackberry to find groundbreaking success, as, by 2011, the subscriber count reached an astonishing 85 million users worldwide! I mean, it’s really hard to find a tech enthusiast who wasn’t following Blackberry Smartphones and was eager to see what they do next! But their popularity soon took a downward spiral where the stock prices dropped from $147 Million to $4! So what happened? How did a company that was considered a high-flying revolutionary fall down face first? Most importantly, they had the opportunity to avoid this collapse by taking some simple measures. Well, let’s elaborate.


Email services are a pretty familiar way of communicating in modern times, and Blackberry was the pioneer who brought the tech to handheld devices. Alongside their globally recognized QWERTY keyboard and iconic trackball that made typing and maneuvering more intuitive than ever before, Blackberry became an instant hit and climbed the rank of world leaders, corporate bigwigs, and the rich and famous alike.

Blackberry's QWERTY keyboard and trackball revolutionized typing and navigation, attracting world leaders and celebrities.
Blackberry’s QWERTY keyboard and trackball revolutionized typing and navigation, attracting world leaders and celebrities.

Posing as a glorious status symbol during their golden years, Blackberry had that “Always-on, Always connected” approach to mobile devices which made businessmen all over the world release a cry of joy. Blackberry’s intro to the big leagues was with their first prominent release called “The Inter@ctive Pager 950” back in 1998, which came with a small-sized screen, a keyboard layout, and that aforementioned iconic trackball. In 1999, Blackberry took it a bit further by introducing the 850 Pager which was compatible with Microsoft’s “Push Email” exchange server, and with that, they introduced their very first smartphone with the title “Blackberry 957”.

Due to the sudden surge in demand, the Revenue of RIM skyrocketed between the years 1999 and 2001. With their success in tow, the company decided to expand the functionality in their servers and of course, their very own operating system. Blackberry reached its peak between the years 2001 to 2007 due to global expansion and of course, the addition of new and innovative products under their belt, which gave them a solid grip in the market of the enterprise. And with that, Blackberry effortlessly found its way into the consumer market and solidified its position further with the introduction of the iconic Curve and Bold lineup of products.

1999 Blackberry introduced the 850 Pager, compatible with Microsoft's Push Email exchange server.
1999 Blackberry introduced the 850 Pager, compatible with Microsoft’s Push Email exchange server.

The Beginning of the End

Throughout history, it can be seen how the stock price of Blackberry reached an all-time high of $147 in mid-2008. Just a year before that, Apple Inc., or AAPL introduced the FIRST iPhone variant which stood to be the very first PROMINENT touchscreen phone. While initially ignoring the phone with the impression that it was nothing more than an enhanced mobile phone with a bunch of playful features that’d cater to younger customers, as we know the iPhone saw a massive amount of success, and thus lit the fuse for the demise of Blackberry.

AAPL introduced the FIRST iPhone variant

While not directly aimed at any certain individual niche, and much to Blackberry’s surprise, the iPhone managed to do more than attract a young crowd, it brought along business leaders, an act that directly penetrated the core market of Blackberry. And with similar email-enabled smartphones on the rise, things weren’t any easier. Surprisingly, Blackberry still held on to their “business email device” standard, as seeing people with two separate ones where the Blackberry variant was used as the business phone with the other being a personal one was the norm back then. As an attempt to even the odds, Blackberry introduced “Storm” back in 2008, which was the first touchscreen phone that targeted the iPhone as their competitor, and while it was good while it lasted, it wasn’t long before complaints started rolling in about the performance of storm, and turned the excitement into skepticism in one fell swoop.

HTC joined the party and came up with “Dream”, the very first commercially released device to use the Linux-based Android operating system back in 2008. As you can imagine, it made Blackberry’s life a lot harder since the phone was more intuitive in comparison, but Blackberry made a mistake by assuming the public wanted more focus on security than intuitiveness. Yet again, Blackberry failed to understand its audience, which wasn’t the only reason for its downfall.

A year later, 2009 saw RIM securing first place in Fortune’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies, which followed with them having the largest market share in the US Market in 2010 with a global user count standing at an impressive 41 million. However, as impressive as it sounds, that was the most value RIM got out of the market in the U.S., as they continued losing ground to Apple’s iOS AND Google’s Android, and against two heavyweights, Blackberry started to count its days. By 2012 November, Blackberry’s market share in the USA dropped to 7.3%, where Google and Apple claimed 53.7% and 35% of the share respectively.

Blackberry's market share in the USA dropped to 7.3% in November 2012, with Google and Apple dominating.
Blackberry’s market share in the USA dropped to 7.3% in November 2012, with Google and Apple dominating.

However, despite the decline in the US, Blackberry still had a grip on the global market, where 77 Million users were more than happy with their phones back in 2012, effortlessly showing how useful, intuitive, and mostly, how popular Blackberry phones were from a Global Perspective. Suffice it to say, frustration was an understatement for Blackberry as they had to deal with local loss and global success at the same time, causing a state of arbitrariness. The worst, however, was in 2011 when the stock price of Blackberry tanked around 80%, all while dealing with a declining share in the market. However, it got worse in the first quarter of 2014 when they faced a loss of $84 million, which inadvertently lead to a 30% decline in the share price.

Attempt at a Comeback

As expected, Blackberry attempted several comebacks including corporate developments, associated recommendations by analysts, and developments with their competitors in mind. In 2010, RIM got its hands on a real-time operating system called “QNX”, which would ultimately be implemented as the OS in the Blackberry “PlayBook” tablet, which again turned out to be a failed attempt at a comeback due to its high price, limited features and as a nail in the coffin, subpar level of performance.

But they wouldn’t stop there, as in 2011, they announced their next-gen phone titled BlackBerry 10, which while surpassing the initial prediction of sales that resulted in an uprising in the company’s stock in 2012 November, it kinda failed to catch on. However, based on the interim forecast, the company did see an uprising of stocks of 14% during November 2012, with the stock rising to around 50% by 2013, January. They also planned to transform the whole “mobile device” approach to “mobile solutions”, but the plan didn’t go as well as Blackberry expected.

Interim forecast shows company's stocks rose 14% in November 2012, reaching 50% by January 2013.
Interim forecast shows company’s stocks rose 14% in November 2012, reaching 50% by January 2013.

Now fast forward a bit, there was a dawn of new hope, where the stock rose to a closing high of $12.66 in early 2018. But before they could celebrate, the mobile business was completely dominated by their competition, forcing them to shift into different segments such as enterprise software.

Modern Times and Verdict

The Canadian-based software company now specializes in cybersecurity solutions and operating systems, leaving their glorious days of the cellphone messaging domain to rest behind. In a nutshell, Blackberry’s downfall was triggered due to its inability to innovate in due time. They also cut support for their OS on older models which rendered their previous models obsolete. Blackberry tried to recover from jumping to business-to-business, contradicting its business-to-consumer approach and targeting executives.

While having a golden era due to their qwerty keyboard alongside their proprietary BBM messaging app in 2000, the company announced they would no longer support these devices and complete their transformation as a software-based business. Blackberry parted ways with the mobile market by quoting “We thank our many loyal customers and partners over the years and invite you to learn more about how BlackBerry provides intelligent security software and services to enterprises and governments around the world.” While you can still use your old Blackberry as a burner phone and keep old numbers in it for nostalgia’s sake, it’d be far better to slowly let go and find a better alternative.