This. This is the Typo keyboard. It attaches to an iPhone, adding a hardware keyboard to the bottom of the phone. The Typo isn’t awesome, at least according to the reviews it had when it launched. But, this could have been huge for Blackberry. Huge as a product, huge as a brand reigniter, huge in getting people to think about Blackberry more than just in the past tense. Huge.
A Little Late to the Party
Blackberry, is that still a thing? Yes, somewhat in certain parts of the world, but less and less everyday, especially in the US. These days, Blackberry seems to be content with battling with Microsoft for a couple of percentage points of the mobile market, a battle they are doing poorly in. Recent statistics have Blackberry’s marketshare at less than 1%, worldwide. In the US, their market share is basically non-existent, a rounding error.
So, why are we talking about them now? Well, for one thing, it is amazing to pause for a moment, and reflect on the husk Blackberry has become. It’s amazing, arguably the company that invented the smartphone market, and not that long ago, that has become such a shadow of its former self. I cannot think of a better example of a company not adapting with its markets and so quickly being left behind by them. Once an industry juggernaut, now reduced to a cautionary tale, a butt of jokes and ridicule.
I am not here to bash Blackberry. The reasons for their decline, in my opinion, can be just as easily chalked up to tone-deaf mis-management, as to lots of bad luck in a market simply that swiftly moves away from the players who no longer can competently serve it. The mobile space is brutal, and at least some portion of success simply comes from luck. Things in this market move so fast that no company can dominate it, on purpose, for long. A lot of things have had to go their way. For Blackberry, a lot of things have not gone their way.
The truth is, I, like many others, fondly remember my time with my Blackberries. Back in 2007–2010, I loved my Blackberries like an appendage. As a long-form thinker, I loved the ability to smash several hundred words onto that great keyboard, mostly error-free, and fast. The Blackberry perfectly fit me, especially in how it moved at the speed of my thought. It was the perfect tool, at once accentuating and concentrating the effort I put into it. Even now, in 2014, a part of me pines for the days of having a hardware keyboard, where text correction was a convenience, not a necessity.
So, I know Blackberry is a has-been, and I am a little late to the party in discussing them. But, I do think there is something interesting about this particular example, this particular misstep. Sure, there are many, many missteps we could look at that Blackberry made, but in particular, I think this one is interesting, poignant, relevant to where they are currently, and a cautionary tale as to what other companies in their shoes could do to avoid the same fate.
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