I know a bunch of you cringed when you saw the title of this post — I get it, I really do. You love your Blackberry — the buttons, the messenger, that little trackball… But it doesn’t change the fact that you are carrying around an obsolescent device and will soon feel the pain of being forced to change.
Blackberry: A dinosaur walks among us
So, what happened to Blackberry and its parent company RIM? For those of you who don’t know about RIM (Research in Motion), it is the Canada-based company that has managed the Blackberry brand since its inception in 1999. They have taken those devices from their cutting-edge beginnings, transformed them into market-leaders, and then rode them to the bottom of the pack. What happened? Well, there was a lack of innovation. It seems that Research in Motion failed on both “research” and “motion.” If you’ve watched consumer behavior over the last ten years, you’ve seen people gravitating toward devices that blended into their lifestyles. They wanted to be able to answer phone calls, text, email, update social media sites, listen to music, watch TV, play games and navigate the streets all on one device. We have watched GPS company stocks tumble, camera companies go bankrupt and one company has emerged as the new consumer favorite.
Apple: The phoenix rose from the ashes
In the mid-nineties, many of us were preparing funeral dirges for Apple computer. The once revolutionary company had strayed from its mission to be the user-friendly, innovative PC-maker, and was attempting to beat Microsoft at its own game. Apple had licensed its name to “clone” manufacturers and was no-longer trying to lead through innovation. It was failing miserably. But one man brought Apple back from the brink of extinction.
Jobs: Our dear leader
Steve Jobs had been let go from his leadership role at Apple. He had become argumentative and fought the board at every step. In his absence, though, the company was sinking, all the while he was co-founding new and exciting companies that were thriving. So, Jobs was asked to return. He was named “interim CEO.” Those of us who were familiar with his work knew that this was no interim position — Jobs never did anything halfway. He saw that consumers wanted a simpler PC — after all, that had been the core mission of Apple to start. So, he championed the new iMac. It only required about 10 minutes of set up time (as opposed to hours with most desktops) and the iMac came in pretty colors (instead of the clinical off-white that was standard). Then he knew that people wanted to listen to music on their headphones and have lots of music to choose from without having to carry around cassette tapes or CDs — and thus, the iPod was born. We saw the same approach in the creation of the iPhone and iPad. Not only was Apple on the road to recovery, it became (if you include iPhone and iPad sales) the top PC manufacturer worldwide.
The end: Why Blackberry won’t see the same resurgence
RIM doesn’t have a leader like Jobs. There is no revolutionary figure. And though their name is Research in Motion, they have not studied consumer behavior, found solutions to consumer problems, and allowed the momentum to carry the company to the birth of their next device. It reminds me of the old quote by Wayne Gretzky, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Jobs understood what the consumers wanted before they even did. He saw the annoyances and processes that prevented consumer devices from becoming more integrated with people’s lives. He saw why people were afraid of technology. Then, he solved their problems before they knew they were solvable. I don’t pretend that this is easy to do. Many companies have gone the way of the dinosaur because they were lacking this foresight. But, Blackberry and RIM had the benefit of market share and a loyal following. They just stopped innovating — they let the revolution happen without them.
Decisions, decisions: So what do I get next?
If you have been an avid Blackberry fan, you are probably wondering what you should get instead. Well, there are two market leaders who have been innovating all along and offer wildly popular devices: Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android). So which one is for you?
Answer these questions:
- Do you prefer to have a device that is simpler to use with a sexy interface (as opposed to being able to tinker with a device and make the interface your own)?
- Do you want to be able to simply integrate your handheld (these are really no longer phones and they shouldn’t be called that) with your laptop or tablet?
- Do you mind spending a little more for quality?
If you answered “yes” to these, you are probably an iPhone person. If you prefer full user control and want to be able to customize the heck out of your user experience, you are probably more of an Android user. Regardless, you will probably need a little time to get used to not having buttons. The on-screen menus do take a little getting used to. But after only a couple of weeks, you will be writing emails, texts and the like with rapid-fire speed.
It is okay to mourn the loss of the Blackberry. Don’t worry — you can keep your old phone. Just put it in the closet next to that old word processor and the TV with the “rabbit ears” antenna. It will rest there in peace.
If you want to figure out if a tablet is right for you, read my post about tablets.