What it is: Blackberry once dominated the smartphone market. Then Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and it’s been all downhill since then.
At one time, almost everyone in the corporate world used a Blackberry. Companies issued Blackberry phones and people used them so often that they were labeled Crackberries. At this point, Blackberry (then called Research in Motion) kept offering incremental improvements on their phones. That all changed when Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.
Blackberry dismissed the threat of the iPhone and assumed that they would retain their massive market share since the idea that people would dump their Blackberries for an iPhone seemed ludicrous. Yet that’s exactly what happened.
The iPhone proved such a massive improvement over the traditional smartphone that comparing an iPhone to a blackberry was like comparing an F-35 stealth fighter to the Wright Brother’s Kitty Hawk plane. Once people saw how much more versatile the iPhone could be compared to the physical keyboard and tiny screen of the Blackberry, they switched en masse to the iPhone and abandoned Blackberry and others in the process.
The lesson is clear. Incremental improvements are never the answer. To succeed in business, you need to assume that someone else will come along and wipe out your entire advantage overnight. Before that happens, you have the chance to disrupt your own business and replace it with another one, but most companies don’t want to think that way. They prefer to coast on inertia and keep milking success for as long as possible until it’s too late, and that’s exactly what Blackberry has done.
Finally after seeing their once dominant market share plummet to the single digits, Blackberry has announced they plan on releasing a modified Android phone. Of course, this ignores the fact that most Android manufacturers are losing money selling phones (with the exception of Samsung and Huawei). Can Blackberry succeed selling Android phones? Even if they do, they’ll never dominate the market again because their sole advantage is security, which isn’t a large enough advantage to convince people to switch from any Android phone to a Blackberry Android phone. That means in the best case scenario, Blackberry will simply stay a small phone manufacturer.
What Blackberry really needs to do is decide where the future is going and then build devices that define that future. Instead of building another me-too device like an Android phone or a tablet that flopped (the Blackberry Playbook), Blackberry and every other company needs to think ahead and build tomorrow’s product today. Apple did that with the iPhone and then the iPad. Everyone else fails to see the future until it’s too late.
The list of companies that fail to see the future is huge (Montgomery Wards, Borders Books, Nokia, Blackberry, and even Microsoft). Knowing that incremental improvements is never the answer, companies should focus on redefining the future like Apple did with the iPhone or Palm Computing did with personal digital assistants (PDAs). Inventing the future is the surest path to success, yet it’s also the hardest because it involves thinking and planning, which most companies prefer not to do in favor of granting their executives bonuses in return for doing nothing but more of the same.
That’s a sure-fire formula for failure. Yet it’s the choice most companies choose every time and then wonder why they become irrelevant in a few years.