What it is: At one time, Blackberry defined the corporate smartphone standard. Now Blackberry’s smartphone sales are dying rapidly.
Before Apple introduced the iPhone, Blackberry ruled the corporate smartphone market. If you were an executive, you had to have a Blackberry. If you didn’t have one, that signaled your status in the corporation and that wasn’t a good sign.
When the iPhone started to grow in popularity, Blackberry was the main victim. People rapidly switched from Blackberry phones to the iPhone. Desperate to stay relevant, Blackberry tried to release their own touch screen phone called the Blackberry Storm. This rushed product had numerous flaws that caused huge numbers of returns and increased customer dissatisfaction with Blackberry in general. Blackberry tried to appeal to its loyal fan base by emphasizing its physical keyboards, but that would be like buggy whip manufacturers emphasizing the ability to still use buggy whips while driving a car instead of a horse and carriage.
BlackberryOS gradually faded away to the point of irrelevancy. Blackberry tried to reverse their fortunes by releasing the Blackberry Priv, an Android-powered smartphone that emphasized security along with Blackberry’s still popular physical keyboard. Unfortunately, the Blackberry Priv is selling poorly.
First, physical keyboards combined with a touch screen interface of Android makes little sense. Some people still prefer physical keyboards, but many are comfortable without one. Adding a physical keyboard that only a minority of people want isn’t a strategy for success.
Second, Android is so popular that you can buy an Android smartphone form any manufacturer. While Blackberry Priv touts security, that’s not enough incentive for most people. So the Blackberry Priv’s two main selling points (a physical keyboard and security) means little to the vast majority of smartphone buyers. So it’s no wonder that the Blackberry Priv is struggling.
Blackberry simply missed the boat in the mobile market. Adopting Android simply puts Blackberry in the same crowded market as yet another Android device manufacturer, which forces them to compete with the dozens of other Android smartphone manufacturers.
Blackberry failed because the market changed around them. Blackberry thought the world wanted physical keyboards, and they were right, right up to the point where the iPhone showed people that physical keyboards were unnecessary. That was the time to dump physical keyboards for good, but Blackberry clung to a dying feature much like Kodak clung to film for too long.
The iPhone changed the rules for smartphones. Blackberry refused to adopt to these new rules and they suffered as a result. Even the Blackberry Priv is a subtle admission that BlackberryOS has failed and that touch screen interfaces defined by iOS and copied by Android are the future. The trouble is Blackberry is too late with an Android smartphone.
Companies fail not when rivals overtake them, but when the market changes around them and they’re too slow to adopt. Blackberry dominated the smartphone market until the iPhone (and Android) rewrote the rules and made BlackberryOS obsolete. Blockbuster Video failed to adopt to streaming video and Borders Book failed to adopt to Amazon’s strategy of selling books over the Internet.
Who’s next to fail? The auto industry that’s designed to sell cars. So the Apple Car will likely represent a self-driving, non-gasoline-powered, ride-sharing vehicle rather than a car you can buy for individual use. The PC industry is already shrinking under the onslaught of the iPhone and iPad. The digital download market (defined by iTunes) is dying, which is why Apple bought Beats to create a streaming music business instead.
The best way to compete is not to compete. In other words, don’t play to a rival’s strengths. Redefine the rules so the rules favor you and put even the strongest competitor at a massive disadvantage. The fall of Blackberry and the dismal sales of the Blackberry Priv show what happens when a company fails to adapt to changing conditions in time.