Death’s Icy Fingers Inch Closer to BlackBerry

For how much longer will Vivek Bhardwaj, BlackBerry’s Head of Software have a job?

If I were to guess, not more than 12-months to 18-months.

My prediction is that BlackBerry is in an unstoppable death spiral that will snatch not just Vivek Bhardwaj’s job but eviscerate many, many jobs at the Canadian company.

Blackberry – Once a Star

Just six years back Blackberry had no challengers to its vaunted status as the preferred high-end phone, the smartphone to own and flaunt.

In the second quarter of 2008, BlackBerry had over 53.6% of the still-nascent smartphone market in the U.S.

Owning a BlackBerry was a badge of honor.

The movers and shakers in the U.S. swore by it.

In Washington DC, in New York City, in San Francisco and many places in between you’d see the corporate types, politicians and their aides, lobbyists and IT support guys frantically thumbing away on their BlackBerry.

So popular was the BlackBerry that a neologism called BlackBerry Thumb to describe a form of repetitive strain injury came into vogue

Even Barack Obama, the Republicans’ favorite “Kenyan” whipping boy, was seen in public on several occasions pecking away at his BlackBerry.

And then came Apple’s touchscreen smartphone, the iPhone.


The sun started to set on BlackBerry, slowly eclipsing its prospects in the fast-growing smartphone segment.

Blackberry - End of the Road?BlackBerry – Few Takers

Losing Market Share

Today BlackBerry seems to be on its last legs.

If you listen carefully, you can hear the death-rattle of the company, a feeble sound bound to strengthen in the coming quarters.

BlackBerry’s market share in the first quarter of 2013 was a pitiful 2.9%, according to IDC’s latest smartphone OS survey.

Hell, even Windows phones now have a higher markets share than BlackBerry.

In my lexicon, there can be no greater humiliation or dimmer prospects for a mobile phone vendor than trailing a bumbling blunderhead like Microsoft in mobile OS market share.

Top Smartphone OS Shipments Q12013

BlackBerry misread the shift in consumer taste and complacently sat on its haunches ceding the market to Apple iOS first and then to Android.

BlackBerry – Last Gasps

With iOS and Android so powerful, here’s the big question gnawing at many minds – Is there room for a third smartphone OS platform like BlackBerry’s BB10.

I doubt it.

Mature consumer technology markets like smartphones tend to work differently from detergents or body soap in that there are rarely more than two dominant vendors and sometimes just one.

Both consumers and developers have time and money for just one or two players.

Here are a few key sectors in the consumer technology space dominated by one or two players:

Online Auctions – eBay; E-commerce – Amazon; Consumer PC platform – Windows and OS X; Tablets – OS X and Android; Search – Google; Blog platform – WordPress and Tumblr.

By the time the laggards like BlackBerry jump into the fray with their touchscreen phones, the lead players have gotten entrenched and are so far ahead that it’s extremely difficult to dislodge them unless there’s a remarkable technology leap like the Apple iPhone touchscreen device in 2007.

But devices like the iPhone that herald a paradigm shift and capture the imagination of people rarely come by.

Consumer technology leaps are like the Halley’s Comet, rare in their appearance.

More common are the small asteroids, incremental improvements.

iOS and Android are here to stay, not easily dislodgeable off their perch.

Even cash-rich companies (like Microsoft) struggle to make headway against the iOS-Android duopoly in the smartphone segment.

Also, modern consumers are brutally unforgiving of laggards like BlackBerry and quick to embrace the flavor of the month.

And the current popular flavors are iOS and Android in the smartphone arena.

As BlackBerry’s market share dwindles into insignificance, the few developers it has in its fold will abandon ship completely.

And without a robust developer ecosystem, a smartphone platform is as good as dead.

As it is, consumer app favorites like Netflix, Instagram etc are missing on BlackBerry.

Unless there’s a miracle in the offing, BlackBerry will cease to exist less than 18-months from now, and unmourned, unlamented the company will join the debris of once great technology companies like DEC, Tandem, Sun, Compaq, Palm etc.

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