Is the Crackberry now toast?

posted at 1:30 pm on February 12, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

Reports of the death of the Blackberry and its producer, Research in Motion (RIM) may be premature, but it’s hard to argue that the vultures seem to be circling. After controlling nearly half of the market share as recently as 2009, they accounted for only 10% of sales in 2011. Their stock is down to one quarter of the value it once held and they’ve had to make big changes in upper management. So what happened which led the company’s premiere product to transform from a mystically addictive must-have (we all called it the “crackberry”) to an also ran? At the New Yorker’s financial pages, James Surowiecki thinks it’s a fairly simple explanation. RIM was run over by Apple’s superior understanding of the market.

The easy explanation for what happened to R.I.M. is that, like so many other companies, it got run over by Apple. But the real problem is that the technology world changed, and R.I.M. didn’t. The BlackBerry was designed for businesses. Its true customers weren’t its users but the people who run corporate information-technology departments. The BlackBerry gave them what they wanted most: reliability and security. It was a closed system, running on its own network. The phone’s settings couldn’t easily be tinkered with by ordinary users. So businesses loved it, and R.I.M.’s assumption was that, once companies embraced the technology, consumers would, too…

In this new era, technological diffusion started to flow the other way—from consumers to businesses. Social media went from being an annoying fad to an unavoidable part of the way many businesses work. Tablets, which many initially thought were just underpowered laptops, soon became common among salesmen, hospital staffs, and retailers. So, too, with the iPhone and Androids. They’ve always been targeted at consumers, and tend to come with stuff that I.T. departments hate, like all those extraneous apps. Yet, because employees love them, businesses have adapted (and the iPhone and Androids have upgraded security to make themselves more business-friendly). As a result, the iPhone and Androids now control more than half the corporate mobile market.

This story is very similar to the computer market and the long time battle of IBM vs. the world. Of course, they did much better in that battle over the long run and held on a lot longer. The common theme was, “do you want a toy or do you want to be able to do business?” And until computers came down in price to the point where they were truly ubiquitous among young, newer users, the business market carried IBM along nicely. Unfortunately, everyone was already used to the idea of having a phone and, as the author notes, Apple was just better at anticipating and delivering what the user on the street wanted. RIM took forever to come out with a touch screen after the iPhone did, and when they finally released one it was a pale comparison to the competition. That didn’t provide much incentive for people to come back.

I loved my Blackberry during the last congressional campaign, with more than one person telling me that I was locked into it far too often. I haven’t gone to a Droid or an iPhone yet, but if I do upgrade this year or next, I’m sorry to say there’s a good chance I’ll be following the herd. I just hope you can still get a physical keyboard. I don’t like tapping on a screen.

Oh… and get off my lawn.

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Jazz, the Droid 4 just debuted and it’s getting excellent reviews; it has a slide-out keyboard, described as the best physical keyboard in one of the reviews. Check and/or for their write-ups.

Allendundit on February 12, 2012 at 8:55 PM

F15Mech on February 12, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Heh. Cool setup you have there. But whenever you do make the switch, I bet you’ll love them. :-)

Actually, the year after we were married, the first computer my hubby bought was an Apple IIc — which still works, by the way, and which he used to put his business files on. I became pretty adept at playing one of three games (I think) that came on one of the 5 1/4″ floppies called Space Quarks. No joystick, no mouse, just keyboard commands. LOL. And we had to boot off of the floppy to begin with.

I had the misfortune to have to use a PC with Photoshop many years ago as part of a pre-press job I had. At the time, my boss wired it up to prove a point, but we all hated it and would jockey for the other available computer, a Mac Quadra, which in terms of performance was like the Energizer Bunny.

The PC almost always crashed with every third project we did. We also had to use a weird ritual to save them, ironically, first to the PC, then to a Mac server, because saving directly from the PC was incompatible with our processing system. That’s about when my extreme dislike of PCs began. We finally prevailed upon my boss to get rid of it and get us another Mac, which he finally did.

PatriotGal2257 on February 12, 2012 at 9:08 PM

Iphone took the women and beta-males from RIM Android took all the men.

esnap on February 12, 2012 at 9:09 PM

I would really like to see this company do well because they are based just outside my hometown of Toronto – and I occasionally do work for them.

Johnny 100 Pesos on February 12, 2012 at 9:10 PM

Got fed up with blackberry because of their crappy software. Call their support, they tell you to go f**k yourself. The writing was on the wall when I started to notice all the websites had apps for iphone, a few for android, and none for bberry. Iphone definitely better overall quality.

wdkeller on February 12, 2012 at 9:16 PM

Yes…Along with all social conservatives.

Bandit13 on February 12, 2012 at 9:28 PM

My mother went through six Blackberry handsets that would just go screwy after awhile. I always thought it was clunky and unusable. All my friends started getting iPhones, but anybody who knows computers or tech could look at an iPhone and tell you what market the unnecessary flourishes and pretty interface Apple was selling it to.

But I have seen the light, and it is called ICE CREAM SANDWICH.

mintycrys on February 12, 2012 at 9:48 PM

RIM fundamentally went down the drain because they thought they could survive on the corporate market forever. They saw the smartphone purely as an organizational/communications device – exactly like the PDA’s of the late 90’s, but with Internet connectivity. At that, they excelled.

If you recall, Apple was not actually the one to pioneer the smartphone revolution. The original iPhone was a $500-after-contract monstrosity that didn’t run apps; and, indeed, Steve Jobs himself was opposed to apps.

The original company to pioneer the smartphone revolution was Nokia, with the Symbian OS. Symbian is actually a really good operating system, and with the recent release of Belle, I’d say (apps aside) it’s even better than Android. Nokia slipped up though in the following ways:

1) Neglecting the American market. From a European business perspective, this is actually smart on the surface. The American market was split between TDMA/CDMA/GSM/iDen technologies, and each technology requires a different phone. More phones for more networks means more risk. The rest of the world stuck pretty much with GSM, which is the global standard, and those are the phones that Nokia makes. So Nokia sold some phones in the US, but they were hard to find at retail and in general, Americans just forgot about them.

2) Not devoting enough attention to the user experience. Because for as efficient and powerful as Symbian may be, the UI sucked. It was slow, laggy, etc. There’s an extraordinarily large number of apps available for Symbian, but loading up your phone on apps is a pain. Nokia has only really started to give Symbian’s front-end experience the attention it needed in the last couple of years, sadly too little, too late.

So Apple decided to pull a fast one, and took over the market. Google copied them and gained market share too, even though Android today isn’t that much better than Symbian used to be.

Microsoft just sucks. It always has sucked, and Windows Phone 7, while a decent effort, still copies off the iPhone by trying to keep a single hardware profile that, since it’s not updated often enough, just makes the phones slower than their Android and iOS brethren.

Bottom line:
RIM is dead
Microsoft is dying
Apple is for grandmothers who can’t be trusted around a phone, ever, so the phone is locked down so that it can never, ever be screwed up by the user, most of who are actually intelligent people who want to own the hardware they bought
Android is for people who want laggy phones, laggy programs, malware, and everything else that makes people hate Windows
Nokia’s Symbian and Meego are for everyone else

This is the same pattern that we see for desktop computers:
OS X: “I can’t let my computer break on me”
Windows: Lag, lag, and more malware
Linux: for everyone else

If any of you HotAir commenters actually care about your phones, buy a Nokia N8–U-S/dp/B003ZX7RL4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329100946&sr=8-1
a) Better camera than the iPhone 4S
b) Free GPS navigation for life
c) Better graphics card than the iPhone 4S
d) HDMI-out, so you can hook it up to your big screen TV and watch movies stored on your phone or play cell phone games on the big screen
e) More Bluetooth compatibility than the iPhone 4S
f) FM transmitter, so you can listen to your music on your car’s radio
g) USB On-The-Go support, so you can transfer music, movies, documents, anything from a USB key to your phone
h) Better web browser than the iPhone (when you install Opera Mobile)
i) Better battery life
j) Works on AT&T and T-Mobile – yes, both carriers’ 3G

Basically, it’s just better than the iPhone in any way that people actually care about. Nokia is the only cellphone company that is still innovating.

solatic on February 12, 2012 at 9:50 PM

RIM deserves to die a slow painful death. They have the dumbest leadership of any tech company maybe save for HP. They knew what was coming and did absolutely no innovating. Right now even, they should be embracing android, forking it, and creating an ultra secure build that still runs all of the android apps. They would corner the enterprise market of android and could still offer centralized management of services. Instead they are going to try and introduce a new smartphone os into this already well developed ecosystem and they will fail. Meanwhile, motorola or samsung will build highly secure builds of android and corner the enterprise and business sectors.

thphilli on February 12, 2012 at 1:59 PM

We just had this conversation last week. Higher-ups want Iphones and Ipads (mostly to let their kids play with!) and IT wants a secure platform for emails and calendar and business data. I think IT is going to lose to the CEO’s kids.

cptacek on February 12, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Android or the Windows phone will eventually take over, because many people know Java and many more people know C#. I’m going to bet on Windows phone. People who code for a living can then make their own home grown apps without submitting it to Apple.

We are going to get around Apple’s limitation that way by writing C# code and putting it on our Citrix server. Not available for the home user.

cptacek on February 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM

We just had this conversation last week. Higher-ups want Iphones and Ipads (mostly to let their kids play with!) and IT wants a secure platform for emails and calendar and business data. I think IT is going to lose to the CEO’s kids.

cptacek on February 12, 2012 at 10:04 PM

With everyone and their brother offering a MDM (mobile device manager) solution, companies will be able to manage Android and iOS devices as well as RIM devices. MDM will be the solution that drives the final nail in RIM’s coffin.

Ward Cleaver on February 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM

solatic on February 12, 2012 at 9:50 PM

I realize that everyone has their favorite mobile platform, but Nokia’s in worse shape than RIM. Nokia’s sinking fast, and readily admits they have no plan B. RIM is on the ropes, but has the Playbook OS up their sleeve. It’s their next mobile platform, and while the Playbook was a failure from a marketing standpoint, the OS is brilliant and has tons of potential.

Regarding Android, I’ve never had malware nor lag. Guess it depends on the model of phone you’ve tried. There are many different Android models, so there’s bound to be some crappy ones. However, compare the top crop of Android phones to the iPhone or top of the line Nokia, and I’m sure they hold their own. One thing’s for sure: Android phones are far more versatile than any other platform. Android is for more tech-savvy folk who like a little something extra, and not just the same safe, boring experience.

spinach.chin on February 12, 2012 at 11:53 PM

With everyone and their brother offering a MDM (mobile device manager) solution, companies will be able to manage Android and iOS devices as well as RIM devices. MDM will be the solution that drives the final nail in RIM’s coffin.

Ward Cleaver on February 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM

Is this available for i* yet?

cptacek on February 12, 2012 at 11:55 PM

I expect it is just a matter of time before I break down and buy a MAC. Seeing how I already own everything else.

I love UNIX/command line and prefer Solaris over anything else.

Go Mac…it’s UNIX with a slick GUI. I always have a command windows up for development.

A LAMP setup is a perfect match for Mac, plus it does so much more and can run Windows VM’s for those times when you have to use MS Project for clients that require Gant charts :P

UrbanCoyote on February 13, 2012 at 12:27 AM

Android or the Windows phone will eventually take over, because many people know Java and many more people know C#. I’m going to bet on Windows phone. People who code for a living can then make their own home grown apps without submitting it to Apple.

Many more know C#? Can’t find enough good Java people these days, and we’re not being asked for C#…

Anyways, for mobile, you’re forgetting technologies like PhoneGap. We’re delivering mobile with HTML5/Javascript that works for any platform.

UrbanCoyote on February 13, 2012 at 12:39 AM

Basically, it’s just better than the iPhone in any way that people actually care about. Nokia is the only cellphone company that is still innovating.

solatic on February 12, 2012 at 9:50 PM

Hmmm. I notice you didn’t mention the screen resolution, which is archaic compared to the iPhone 4S. People actually care about screen resolution. The iPhone has an awesome screen and everything looks great on it. It matters to me, because text and other graphical elements remain crisp and sharp no matter how small they are. When I look at phones with a resolution as small as the N8, it just looks awful to me now. And in what way does the N8 have a better camera? Sure it’s more megapixels, but in no way do megapixels equal a better camera. The sensor and lens are far more important, and the 4S is probably the best in that respect. It takes unbelievable photos, and editing and processing them is so much better because of the higher resolution screen.

Plus for me, the iPhone is the perfect size. I can just about touch the top left corner of the screen with my right thumb when using it one handed. Any bigger and that would become awkward.

This is not to mention the range of apps available for iOS compared to Symbian. Sure there are hundreds of “fart apps” but even when you strip away the crap, the iPhone just has awesome apps compared to anything else.

Sharke on February 13, 2012 at 1:00 AM

I ditched the iphone a while back for Android, and have never looked back. Apple makes a good quality phone, but they’re hardly the only ones. Motorola makes some pretty awesome Android phones. Some people like Samsung and HTC, but I’ve always found the Motorola phones to be solid.

Also, it’s hard to believe for a high-end phone, but the iphones are not made with GorillaGlass. That’s why you’re far more likely to see a cracked iphone than a cracked Android phone. I don’t know if Motorola makes any Android phones without GorillaGlass, but everyone I’ve looked at had it.

There Goes The Neighborhood on February 13, 2012 at 1:36 AM

Lemme guess…Newt uses a blackberry…that’s why HA hates it…

tkyang99 on February 13, 2012 at 4:34 AM

I can’t restart our servers via an iphone or droid, but since the BES server is inside our network, I can access everything via my blackberry bold. Until this changes, I’m keeping the crackberry.

When will hotair roll out access for mobile devices? Most of your comptetition already has.

shanimal on February 13, 2012 at 6:26 AM

@jazz I haven’t gone to a Droid or an iPhone yet, but if I do upgrade this year or next, I’m sorry to say there’s a good chance I’ll be following the herd. I just hope you can still get a physical keyboard. I don’t like tapping on a screen.

Jazz …as a long time smartphone KB clicker (my old motto: I’ll give up my Treo when they pry it from my cold, dead index fingers), and forced convert to an iPhone 3G (newer motto: what the hell was wrong with me that I waited so long to adopt the Best! Phone! Evah!) who finally (after leaving my last employer, and my old iPhone) moved to an Android (latest motto: I want an even better hw platform for Android NOW!!! so where’s my Samsung Note) …

What I’ve found with the Android is that maybe 1/2 of my “clicking” is now dictating into the phone. It’s faster to just speak than click (environment permitting: if it’s a quiet background, maybe 2/3s to 7/8s of my texting is voice work, and the remainder is generally minor onscreen-clicking textual corrections).

I admit to being pretty stunned the first time I saw how accurate the voice-to-text [V2T] was (I never used it on the 3G) …but I’m getting pretty used to it after a couple of months …such that it’s now my first choice (drives my wife nuts: I’ll be speaking into the phone when she enters a room, and she’s “What?” and then annoyed when I shush her and wave the phone).

On a smartphone, V2T is stunningly useful. Even with the inevitable edits (not as many as you’d think if you’ve unsuccessfully tried using V2T apps on a PC in the past).

Heck, I’ve become an early adopter of Evi (the Android Siri) due to how well V2T works ….

A keyboard on a phone just adds unnecessary weight and thickness, and is just one more hardware bit that can break. Just forgo it; t’ain’t really necessary.

You will hardly ever miss it (and maybe never: I certainly don’t).

(Best secondary advice: get the biggest smartphone screen that will fit in your pocket. You will find yourself using your phone for things that you never even suspected existed in your BB-centric world. A bigger screen helps older eyes.)

davisbr on February 13, 2012 at 10:45 AM

I’ve always had a strong respect for Blackberry just because of its reputation. I’d never owned or used one. And my Droid gave me the world if used here in the United States. But when my wife and I went to Germany back in December where my Droid would not work. So, Verizon provided me with a Blackberry that would operate in Germany. As a result of this experience, it is easy to see why Blackberry is going belly up. The ONLY good thing about Blackberry was the fact that it could work in Germany and my Droid could not. But then, compared to a Droid or an iPhone, a Blackberry is a can with a string coming out of it. 1990’s technology trying to be 21st century and failing miserably. From the interface to the applications, it was a piece of crap. In fact, it became a running joke with my wife in Germany, “Piece of crap? Are you going to say that the whole time we’re here?”

But it was. I have absolutely NOTHING good to say about the Blackberry. Why are they even sold? Who’s buying these things?

PorchDawg on February 13, 2012 at 10:53 AM

BlackBerry definitely didn’t move with the market soon enough and Apple and Android moved in with Windows Phone staring at RIM in the rear view mirror. The problem is not only market share but mind share as well. Carriers offer an armada of Android handsets and people seem to clamor to Apple because it’s shinny. It’s almost like RIM can’t do anything without criticism from the media (sound familiar?). RIM is far from dead with new products coming down the pipe unlike the legacy BB OS available today. I think the below link sums it up.

leob on February 13, 2012 at 10:58 AM

…I almost forgot: one reason I wanted to try an Android (after 3 plus years on a Treo, and two plus years on an iPhone) was because one of my clients (I do IT support: contract sys admin) demo’d Swype to me.

If you were ever proficient at all with the old Palm Graffiti text input, you will love Swype …and you’ll never look back at onscreen single clicks (via the standard keyboard).

In noisy environments, 98% of my text entry is via Swype (the remainder is corrections due to speed or new words …my LG “learns” new words as I use them, and Swype adopts that usage).

…last I looked, Apple didn’t have an equivalent to Swipe (there was a beta version for awhile, I think, but Jobs didn’t approve or something, and I don’t know where that project went to).

davisbr on February 13, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Aargh …I also wanted to mention that I have to support smartphones for several different client [companies].

BB is definitely the easiest phone to support; most of what I have to do for support issues, I can do online, or with a quick call to BB support (they’ve simply excellent tech-to-tech support). My end-user interaction is pretty much a single phone call or email from the user describing the problem.

Android requires somewhat more user hand-holding (especially during setup, if I’m not onsite).

And iPhone is perhaps a little more support than the Android. Maybe (most of my iPhone users may be particularly non-technical, so my comparison is prob’ly a bit biased LOL).

…but the BB is just waaay easier to support (hate using it though …one reason I learned how to do most typical maintenance tasks through online accounts).

davisbr on February 13, 2012 at 11:49 AM

I have used a droid and I currently have an Iphone that I got as a gift. Prior to that I had a little Blackberry 8330 and to be perfectly truthful. I really liked that phone, in fact I still have it as a trusty standby in case I drop and break the Iphone.
I think the BB is a very nice phone for someone like me that uses it to talk on or text with. It doesn’t have a huge screen to make gaming easy and there aren’t tons of apps but that isn’t why some of us have a cell phone.
As far as customer support goes I just had a incident that caused me to start with my Verizon rep and end up with the BB rep and I have to say I have never been treated better by any support team.
I hope they can keep the company going and bring it in line with what more of the people want, but I kinda like what it is.

SgtRed on February 13, 2012 at 1:09 PM

stukinIL4now on February 12, 2012 at 1:48 PM
I recall when analog modems were sent the way of the dinosaur by broadband. So who right now is imagining what will run over the iPhone and Android?

Various people. Upcoming is eye-glass style heads-up displays with cursor motion eye-control and accurate voice-to-text earbuds w/bone mics.

Then the nano-technology devices: including contact lense phones, and eventually implants.

davisbr on February 13, 2012 at 2:05 PM

ericdijon on February 12, 2012 at 7:32 PM
The reason why you cannot remove the battery from the iPhone is because there is no need to.

From the corporate standpoint, using webmail is a lot less expensive than the persistently out of date and buggy blackberry server.

…Droid has no corporate connectivity unless you “root” and ruin your phone or your company has cheap network defenses

…VPN with iPhone and you can breeze through your root or share directories like from a desktop.

You are misinformed about some things, and don’t provide a complete enough comparison for others.

Battery – A replaceable battery on the iPhone is a needed option. BB and most (all?) ‘droids have these.

The battery on my first iPhone finally got down to a half hour. So I upgraded to a 3GS …and it finally started the death march too (though it was still working when I turned it in, it was down to an hour or so …and of course I did and could turn stuff off, and quit apps …and I only used Edge cellular connectivity, as 3G sucked up so much power; wi-fi was always off).

My old 3G was good for about a busy work day (i.e., 8 hrs w/long calls, lots of texts, and exclusively using the lower-power Edge technology). My current [inexpensive] Android is good for maybe two days (moderate calls & texts, CDMA only, GPS off, and Wi-Fi always on …but I generally never exit apps like I would on the 3GS). The BB’s I support appear good for a few days.

Being able to replace a battery on a phone you’re used to, and which still works …and battery life between charge …are perfectly valid pre-purchase considerations.

Webmail – Uh, no: webmail isn’t the solution. The vast majority of corporate users (including BB, iPhone, and Android users) are more likely to be going through Exchange servers on small to mid-size (and probably some enterprise level) networks.

…BB server isn’t strictly necessary at all for corporate BB users (I uninstalled the last BB server a couple of years ago; while I would agree that BB server had come to be an unnecessary support burden, the phones themselves have very low support burdens both for hardware, and for end-user issues with Exchange).

Android – My ‘droid isn’t rooted, and securely connects to several Exchange servers. My client’s Androids are similar (none are rooted, all connect just fine w/minimal support past initial setup …btw, these are primarily non-technical users, but sometimes they show me “new stuff”, so I think worrying about the ‘droid being somehow “hard to learn” if you’re not “technical” is a bit over-blown).

Network security issues are the same for all three OS’s (or at least too close to call, given my non-enterprise level – i.e., smaller than 400 user networks, but including multiple domains spread across regional businesses – of expertise).

VPN – Works the same on the ‘droid, and you can use Remote Desktop [RDC] on both OS’s too. VPN and RDC suck on a phone, iPhone or Android, due to the display size limitation …though a Samsung Note w/5.3 inch size and w/1280×800 resolution may barely cut it (I’m certainly going to try one later this year) …you’re probably going to tether your non-cellular laptop to your iPhone or Android phone if the crap hits the fan when you’re remote.

davisbr on February 13, 2012 at 2:37 PM

I have a Droid Bionic and an iPhone 4S (personal and work). The iPhone is pretty slick and kind of cutesy, if you’re into that sort of thing, but the damned screen is so tiny I can barely see anything. Add to that the counter-intuitive way it has of doing things, lack of a menu or back key, one-size-fits-all approach, inflexible UI and lack of 4G, I haven’t really found it in me to love it. The Bionic is bigger, faster, and easier to use. If I had to buy a new phone today it would probably be a Galaxy Nexus, another 4G phone, but there are some sweet ones coming down the pipe in the coming months, such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII, the Galaxy Note, and a couple of hot ones from HTC and Motorola.

Probably the biggest thing against my iPhone though is that it isn’t on Verizon. I might like it better if I did.

Immolate on February 13, 2012 at 7:03 PM