In 1999 a term started sweeping America. It revolutionized the way business people communicated. This tiny marvel with a capability to send instant e-mails was delivered with an addicitve QWERTY keyboard and the term ‘Crackberry’ was born. From a high demand device that became listed on the NASDAQ exchange to a sluggish and wince-worthy brand, BlackBerry still remains a favorite for many. The company is looking past bad press and sales towards the future and the rollout of the A10 which is also rumored to be named the Z30.
The company has experienced its troubles, from the early 2000s patent case with NTP, who accused the then popular brand of patent infringement. The two companies later settled outside of court. Research in Motion (RIM)- the company of the BlackBerry brand paid NTP $612.5 million with a “paid-up license going forward” for BlackBerry to maintain its services and no additional royalties would have to be paid to NTP.
Sales were far from dismal, as BlackBerry remained a powerhouse brand. Another slippery slope hit RIM after two of its CEO’s were charged with issuing stock options at less than fair market value in 2007. Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie repaid the lost costs. The trust factor was broken and RIM came under investigation by the The Ontario Securities Commission and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The investigation was not enough to stop the brand to grow and add over 10 million subscribers.
BlackBerry Bold is Born
A year later, RIM unveiled the popular BlackBerry Bold, its specs matched the iPhone and maintained the keyboard presence, so many customers came to love. While the subscribers to BlackBerry grew to 16 million, the shares begun its first and ongoing decline. In 2009 when RIM launched its app store to compete with growing giant Apple- the fan base begun to decrease. The apps were severely limited and it paled in comparison to the new kid on the block.
Acquisition of QNX
RIM looked to kick the door down on competitors and three years ago purchased QNX Software Systems. The merging technologies would usher in the next generation of the BlackBerry phones. That same year- RIM released the slide down BlackBerry Torch to join the melee of the slider smartphones. The acquisition and new phone failed to impress the large base of consumers who were being seduced by Samsung and Apple.
Job Cuts Begin
The layoffs hit hard for RIM in 2011. In a downed economy and rising unemployment rates, the company eliminated over 2,000 jobs. Shareholders began to balk, pushing for the company to shake-up the front offices for a change. Desperation started to win as Samsung grew bigger, Apple monopolized in sales and now HTC and Nokia were knocking down RIM’s door.
Management changed suddenly when CEO’s Balsillie and Lazaridis took leave, turning the RIM reigns to COO Thorsten Heins. 2011 marked the worst year on record in sales for the company. The boat was staring to sink very slowly. The company pleaded to its investors and shareholders, asking for patience.
Hope began in the developmental process of the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 releases. The Z10 joined the saturated market of touchscreen smartphones, while the Q10 sported a piano style keyboard that appeased many customers. RIM, looking to the future changed its name officially to BlackBerry.
The Z10 bombed completely in sales, scaling BlackBerry further down the smartphone hill. One shareholder was so frustrated he told CEO Heins, “My sense is that the rollout of the Z10 was a disaster.” The Z10 was expected to rise in demand to 3.7 to 4 million devices being shipped. Only 2.7 million devices shipped, resulting in BlackBerry falling behind Nokia and HTC by a landslide.
Heins tried to appease the panic in shareholders regarding the market losses, “It is really a challenge in the U.S.,” Mr. Heins said at the meeting, which was webcast from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. When another shareholder asked him why the company had been unable to win over American investors, particularly ones based in New York, he said: “I would absolutely admit that this is an uphill battle.”
The Q10 faired slightly better in sales but disappointed millions of consumers who found out too late, the phone could not sync with MS Outlook and other issues with syncing not spotted in previous devices. One disappointed investor Mark R. McQueen, CEO of Wellington Financial in Toronto took to his blog to vent his frustration, “The sad reality is that BlackBerry management has failed to deliver on the incredibly modest expectations of someone who has held shares in the company, on and off, since the late 1990s,” McQueen wrote.
Hope Relies on the A10
Rumors are flying the A10 will be released in November and is considered to be the upcoming flagship device of the brand. The newest version is intended to raise the bar on advanced handsets in the market. ‘CrackBerry’ shared the specs of the A10 to include:
- Processor: Dual Core 1.7GHz Qualcomm MSM8960 Pro, Quad Core GPU
- Radio: LTE/CDMA/HSPA+, LTE/HSPA+
- Display: 5″ OLED, HD/WXGA, 1280×720, 24-bit color, S-Stripe Pixel Arrangement, 295ppi
- Dimensions: 140.7 x 72 x 9.4mm (9.7 Verizon)
- OS: BlackBerry OS 10.2
- Camera: 8.0MP Rear Camera with flash, IS 5X / 2.0MP Front Camera IS 5X
- Memory: 16GB + 2GB(RAM) + 64GB uSB (hot-swap)
- Connectors: Micro USB, Micro HDMI out
- Sensors: Ambient Light, Proximity, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Altimeter
- WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n (4G Mobile Hotspot)
- Battery: 2800 mAh Integrated
- Other: NFC, DLNA, Micro SIM
Overall, the specs look impression and the A10 may just be the saving grace to this riches to rags brand. The market is saturated and with brands like Apple, Samsung, HTC and Nokia to contend with, BlackBerry is the old man in the ring looking to swing back. The history of the brand is remarkable, it created what smartphones are today. Here’s hoping BlackBerry can find their path and remain high and fast in the game.