Bottom Line: A single innovation is not enough

Elizabeth Fournier
THINGS just keep getting worse for BlackBerry. After finally admitting it would be open to a sale on Monday, Bloomberg cited sources yesterday claiming execs have been quietly searching for a buyer – with no luck – for months.
And now Gartner’s latest report has market share all but halving in a year, dropping from third place to fall behind Microsoft’s Windows phone at just 2.7 per cent.
No one could truthfully deny that the first BlackBerry phones were groundbreaking, offering portable, wireless access to corporate email as far back as 1999. Such was the brand’s dominance that during a patent row case in 2001 the US Department of Justice had to intervene – warning that the government’s reliance on the service meant a potential network outage could be devastating.
But the sheer scale and pace of development over the past decade has left the Canadian firm’s innovation looking more obsolete by the day. Once students – from the obvious giants (Apple) to the new, developing market entrants (Lenovo, ZTE) – have caught up with and overtaken their former master, producing better handsets and more user-friendly interfaces, and attracting the attention of the world’s best app developers.
Nokia, the other big mobile player of the 1990s/2000s, has looked close to suffering the same fate, but just might be able to turn things around if it can sustain interest in its Lumia range.
Like a knock-off smartphone battery that cuts out as you send that crucial email, BlackBerry’s star has shone brightly and faded fast. Market value has shrunk by 86 per cent since its peak five years ago, and yet buyers still aren’t keen. It’s hard to disagree with their apathy.