What it is: The Blackberry Classic is the last Blackberry model running BlackberryOS.
When Blackberry smartphones ruled the market, everyone thought that Blackberry was the pinnacle of smartphone technology. Even Google originally designed Android to work like a Blackberry clone until they saw the iPhone. That’s when Google suddenly changed Android to look and work more like iOS.
In the meantime, Blackberry watched their market share tumble from a dominant position to an afterthought. The biggest problem was that Blackberry clung to physical keyboards and their antiquated smartphone technology for too long. Comparing an iPhone to a Blackberry is like comparing a jet fighter to a Sopwith Camel biplane.
Blackberry tried to appeal to that small segment of the population that still loved Blackberry physical keyboards, but that segment has dwindled to almost nothing. Blackberry is still living in the past while there best of the world has moved forward to the future.
The biggest problem with Blackberry was getting complacent. Once any company becomes the leader, they risk simply improving their product rather than looking for a way to replace it. As long as you’re focused on improving a product, you’ll never notice bigger disruption ahead.
At one time, companies thought that Blu-ray would be the next video disc standard. When Apple refused to support Blu-ray, everyone thought they were completely wrong. The problem was that Blu-ray discs represented an improvement over DVDs, but nothing spectacular. What proved disruptive was streaming video.
Today, the idea of Blu-ray drives seems antiquated because it is. Yet Blu-ray was just as antiquated back when Apple chose not to include Blu-ray drives while every other computer manufacturer did. That’s because Apple anticipated the future long before everyone else acknowledged the inevitable.
Where Apple fell down was relying on iTunes music downloads for too long until streaming music services started to kill audio download sales. That’s why Apple bought Beats Music for $3 billion dollars to get back into the streaming music service in a hurry while their iTunes music downloads business slowly sank.
The lesson to learn from Blackberry’s demise is that it’s never good enough to offer incremental improvements. Companies need to replace their products altogether, and that’s the secret to success.
Blackberry clung to physical keyboards for too long, and it cost them the smartphone market. Microsoft clung to Windows for too long and they missed the mobile market. Blockbuster Video clung to DVD/Blu-ray disc rentals and missed the streaming video market.
Blackberry is not an exception but a general rule. Most companies falter when they fail to anticipate when their main product will no longer be needed. Look at the original companies that made up the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Out of them all, only General Electric still remains. The American Tobacco Company, The U.S. Leather Company, and the National Lead Company no longer exist.
Just as people eventually switched from whale oil to kerosene to electricity, so did people eventually switch from Blackberry smartphones to iPhones and iPhone clones like Android. Blackberry’s failure was assuming the future would be an extension of the present, which is how most major companies fail in the long run.
Kodak once offered shareholders a choice of how the company should focus its energy. Option #1 was to stick to their film business because it was still making money despite the growing popularity of digital photography. Option #2 was to divide their resources between their film business and digital photography. Option #3 was to switch entirely to digital photography.
Not surprisingly, almost a third of all shareholders voted for Kodak to remain focused solely on film even though they could see that the film business was dying and digital photography was growing rapidly. Most people think only of short-term gains and hope the future will never change, which is a recipe for failure.
The fact that Blackberry is dying should come as no surprise to anyone but Blackberry executives. Blackberry as a company will still be around, but as a smartphone leader, they’re now an afterthought that will never regain their leadership position again unless they come up with the next great advance that will make smartphones as obsolete as the iPhone made Blackberry phones look obsolete.
The future belongs to those who accept that change will come eventually so they prepare for that change way ahead of time. The future also belongs to the shattered remains of once dominant companies who failed to anticipate change, and that will always be the majority of companies.