In Scramble to Avoid Continued Disruption and Demise, BlackBerry Shifts Markets


BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen will shift BlackBerry’s focus from smartphone sales to become a leading supplier of software and services to security.  Company sees greater promise in managing the proliferation of smartphones and tablets used by business and government workers. CreditMark Blinch/Reuters

It was so cool and its use by owners so addictive, they used to call it “CrackBerry.”

A decade can be a lifetime, especially in tech and especially for BlackBerry, the once dominant smartphone and once considered “must have” digital communicator in the Al Gore era of “I invented the Internet” that was so 10 years ago.

BlackBerry’s global market share has collapsed from around 50% in 2009  to less than 3% today. At its peak in 2008, the company that invented the smartphone by creating machines that could serve up emails on the go, had a stockmarket value of $55bn. Today, it is worth less than $5 billion.

BlackBerry was on the cutting edge.  It’s smartphones were leaders in push e-mail, Internet faxing, web browsing and other digital information for professionals and business people.  But it failed to to recognize the emergence of the iPhone, the swarm of low-cost Asian competitors, and that reaching higher in the price bracket with more elegant phones, such as the Q10 and Z10, was too little too late.

Now it hopes to return to its roots of being the phone of choice for  government and business personnel with its email security and hard-to-hack or spy on encryption software.

That won’t be easy either because in the meantime, other competitors have rushed in where BlackBerry has failed to innovate, as in software for Google’s Android OS.  Mobile security management is now on the radar of IBM, Citrix, VMware, and Oracle, among others, including BlackBerry CEO Chen’s former company, SAP.

Now BlackBerry is developing software for Apple, Android, and Windows phones.

BlackBerry will not abandon the phone business, but clearly the company will need a new market to survive because competitors smell blood in the water for the current BlackBerry’s fading image and hemorrhage of cash.

See more of reporter Ian Austen’s story on BlackBerry’s market switch:

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