Take the market, and then lose it. The sad story of the original brand BlackBerry

In our area, BlackBerry phones have always been perceived as a real wonder, but in the West it was an incredibly popular brand. The company captured 50% of the US market and 20% of the world, selling fifty million devices a year – in the middle of zero, it seemed that nothing threatened the Canadian company. But Canadians’ plans violated Apple and Google: they broke into the smartphone market and began to establish their own orders. BlackBerry has long resisted and is alive even now, but the return of positions and greatness is already an impossible task.

Search paths

For a long time, the company had the most boring name imaginable: Research in Motion, or RIM in a simple way. It was founded by Michalis Lazaridis, the son of immigrants who moved from Turkey to Canada. Children’s enthusiasm for technology led Michalis, who in the Western style began to introduce himself to Mike, to the University of Waterloo, where the student studied electronics and computer science.

By 1984, Mike, while still a graduate student, won the first serious contract. And not from anyone, but from General Motors itself. The car giant has ordered a network for use in its factories, and a 23-year-old student received a contract for about half a million dollars. There were about two months left before the graduation at the university, but by that time Mike clearly did not see the point in the crust – he abandoned his studies.

Mike Lazaridis on the left. Image:

The money received from General Motors became the capital for the opening of Research in Motion. Mike was joined by a childhood friend Douglas Fredgin. Cases with the order GM went no matter: the contract was eventually broken and the founders of the company did not really understand what to do next. After several unsuccessful developments, RIM decided to try itself in the development of Mobitex technology, which later glorified the future BlackBerry brand.

The Mobitex network itself was created by the Swedish company Televerket, it was launched in 1986. The standard has a high degree of protection and is ideal for, for example, the transfer of emails. RIM, like other companies, saw this as an opportunity. In Canada, we began to prepare the infrastructure for Mobitex, and pager manufacturers have already developed devices to work on this standard.

Instant messenger gadget

Lazaridis decided to overtake everyone and in 1996 he released Inter @ ctive Pager 900. By and large, this device would now be described as a “gadget messenger”: if the pagers were working to receive data, then the Inter @ ctive Pager 900 allowed full text communication between by users. He looked like this:

Later, RIM released a more convenient and thoughtful device – the Model 950. Although it turned out to be a more successful successor, it didn’t use much demand: in the second half of the nineties, communication usually went either through voice or long letters, while RIM 950 could not call , and writing expanded messages on a tiny display is not very convenient.


At about the same time, RIM thought about creating a memorable brand and turned to Lexicon Branding. The company, which develops brands, found the keyboard buttons like blackberry bones – and that is how the name BlackBerry appeared.

RIM developed a mail service that, through its own BlackBerry Enterprise Server, processed the data and ensured its protection. This determined the target audience of BlackBerry – people who are at least worried about the confidentiality of information. That is, businessmen, employees of operational services, celebrities. Behind them and ordinary users. RIM has finally gotten better: in 1999, the company even went public and for the money received from the sale of shares it could have developed a full-scale business.

At the beginning of the new millennium, the BlackBerry brand still had pagers that used the Mobitex network. Mobile phones were gradually crowding out the usual pagers, but RIM products were still of a different kind, although with the development of wireless Internet, they also had an inevitable end. However, in some sense, the companies were greatly helped by the attacks of September 11, 2001. On that day, New York was virtually mobile-free due to an abundance of calls, but relatively free Mobitex worked perfectly: victims could contact their relatives, emergency services kept in touch via pagers. BlackBerry devices have proven their best.


$ 612.5 million fine and the transition to mobiles

But in the same year, RIM gets a serious lawsuit. The American NTP, which patented the wireless letter transmission system, accused Canadians of illegally using their designs. RIM long unlocked and did not recognize the violation, but in the end the court sided with the NTP. Worse, companies were threatened with banning BlackBerry devices that use patent-infringing technology. This could destroy RIM. On the defense rose the US Department of Defense. The agency said that many government agencies use BlackBerry products and they cannot be abandoned. As a result, RIM got off with a payment of $ 612.5 million in favor of NTP in 2006. At the same time, the company won time to develop services that do not violate the rival patents.

Despite the success of the pagers, RIM understood that the phones would force out such devices. In 2002, the company released its first mobile phone – the BlackBerry 5810 model. However, it was impossible to call it a full-fledged phone: the device did not have a microphone and speaker. It was proposed to make calls through the connection of a wired headset. RIM still focused on text information transfer, but already via GPRS. Buyers were not thrilled with the model: at a price of half a thousand dollars, the device was not a full-fledged phone – it is just inconvenient to connect a headset for each call.

BlackBerry 5810. Image:

RIM focused all its devices on the corporate segment: in those days, corporations bought communicators and other communications for their employees, and the protection of BlackBerry services inspired customers with confidence in the security of working correspondence. But gradually the company decided to fully enter the consumer market. Her cell phones are overgrown with color screens, cameras, music players. At the same time, RIM retained an important feature – the QWERTY-keyboard, which became the hallmark of the brand. Things continued to go well until 2007, when a new player appeared on the phone market – Apple.

Take the market, and then lose it. The sad story of the original brand BlackBerry
BlackBerry 7290 – one of the devices RIM beginning zero. Image:

Again, the iPhone ruined everything.

At first, they didn’t take the Cupertinians seriously: the iPhone was expensive ($ 500 for the basic version!), The lack of a physical keyboard caused many questions, and Apple had to fight in a new field – dominated by Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry and others. Let the first iPhone and was a very compromise device, but the direction for the development of smartphones, he asked more than clear. However, other manufacturers, including RIM, continued to stand their ground.

In an interview, Lazaridis openly scolded the iPhone: “I could not and cannot write on it, and many of my friends, too. It’s hard to write on a piece of glass . ” Surprisingly, in the same 2008, the BlackBerry Storm model came out with a virtual keyboard. The device was let down by the operating system, which was made according to the old principles and significantly inferior to iOS. But the worst was not even the OS – for some incredible reason, the smartphone was missing Wi-Fi.

BlackBerry Storm. Image:

Sales continued to hold on: BlackBerry quickly became one of the most popular mobile brands in the United States in its zero years, and the loyal audience continued to choose it. The company’s smartphones globally divided into two branches: some models came out with push-button keyboards, others released touch-based trends.

Final fall

In 2011, the company introduced a new product – the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. RIM bought the developer QNX Software for its QNX operating system, which formed the basis of the tablet OS. The system was completed in a terrible hurry, and it turned out to be raw: they did not even have time to add a native email client to the tablet release, the supported Android applications worked slowly. PlayBook was waiting for the fate of the BlackBerry Storm: sales were weak and RIM even canceled the development of the second generation device.

The years 2011–2013 become the most unpleasant for RIM: it missed almost the entire market. Mass reductions began, the company was renamed BlackBerry Limited, and Lazaridis left the post of executive director: both the board of directors and he himself understood that there were too many opportunities and a fresh look at the situation. At the helm is John Chen, who offered to return to the corporate segment and services. The last attempt to break into the smartphone market, from which the company had already been completely ousted, was in 2013. The company introduced the new BlackBerry 10 operating system and Q5, Q10 and Z10 devices. Nothing good came out again, and then Chen was left with only one idea – to try Android.

So the BlackBerry Priv slider appeared: the same QWERTY-keyboard (with a touch surface) was hidden under the sliding screen, which the BlackBerry could not refuse.

BlackBerry Prive. Image:

The phone looked promising: a display bent around the edges (as in the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge), a 5.4-inch screen, 3 GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 808 chip. But the device was rather slow in terms of performance, and for the flagship it is unacceptable. At the same time, observers have noted that this is the best BlackBerry smartphone in recent years.

Now the company is almost gone from the smartphone market and focused on business software. Devices continue to occasionally go out, and there are models with a physical keyboard – apparently, there are people who like this format. But as a company, BlackBerry is no longer engaged in the development of telephones: Chinese TCL produces smartphones under this brand. Now BlackBerry is a software development company exclusively.

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