Almost one year ago, I wrote a post "The Richest People I Know (Still) Have Blackberries - And They Aren't Looking to Change." As I do with some of my less Inside Baseball posts, I shared it on Facebook. The conversations were great. Almost everyone over 30 has owned a Blackberry and has gone from Blackberry to some other mobile phone / operating system. One half are thrilled that a better alternative came along. The other half are still pissed that Blackberry screwed up so badly.
Last year, there was a small but powerful minority who still used their Blackberry, and if you looked at median wealth of these users, it would be been astounding. As I wrote then, "Some of the Blackberry users I know aren't people who don't "get" smartphones or can't appreciate the app ecosystem. In fact it's the opposite. They understand the value almost scientifically. And, they have determined that their productivity remains far increased with Blackberry devices. Moving to another device will cost them money, and when your net effective earnings exceeds $10,000/hr, 30 min gains in efficiency are meaningful."
Today, that small but powerful minority is a dying breed, as I circled back with a few of them to see what phones they were using, and it wasn't a Blackberry. Unfortunately, Blackberry has only Blackberry to blame. While my advice was worth about that of anyone from the cheap seats and undifferentiated, I thought Blackberry will succeed not by competing with Apple but by being the anti-Apple. They should copy Apple, though, by leveraging their "fan boys." Apple may be cool, but Blackberry could again become an aspirational brand. I know I wouldn't mind having a piece of whatever has made that small but powerful group successful, and it's much easier to ascribe that success to something tangible, like a phone, something we can all have.
Alas, Blackblerry did the exact opposite. Their most winning products were the 8000 and 9000 series. Next up after a product from 2008 was the 10 series. But, instead of improving the lives of their small but disproportionately powerful fan base, they did the opposite. The first 10 series phone was, you guessed it, a touch-screen one - The Blackberry 10 Z10. The Blackberry operating system, while nicely ingrained for many enterprises, is not a good enough hook to challenge people to use a subpar touchscreen phone. And frankly, any first or second generation touchscreen that wasn't Apple's iOS sucks. Why would you want to alienate your core further by giving them something that in no way can be competitive?
Months later, Blackberry (finally) released the Blackberry 10 Q10, a new keyboard phone with their revised operating system. But, as one keyboard user says, it's as though the entire phone was an after thought. The issues he has fall right into "Treat versus Chore." It's a framework and scale for evaluating the mental tax of using a product, and when you have more chores than treats, you build up a tide of negative sentiment that isn't noticeable on the surface but can lead to mass exodus' later. The last thing Blackberry needed was to screw up their keyboard phone, and that's just what they did. The very reason why this group used the phone was not just the keyboard, it was the efficiency as a result of the keyboard. Screw up the efficiency and no keyboard is going to save you.
In this case, Blackberry took away the much-loved shortcut buttons from the phone. There's an added chore. The extreme customization, also gone. I listened to one person who got his new Blackberry as part of his new job. Never has used the phone with any other email account. Yet, when he types his name, his old email address from his past phone shows up. No way way to clear the cache or history with name. Then there was the phone itself. If you missed a call, it showed the contact and which number, but the missed call was from a line item level not a contact level. So if you wanted to call that person back on a different line, you had to exit the phone, go to contacts, find that person and call. That wasn't the case before. And, the list went on. At some point, which was now, enterprise security was not enough to force people for whom time is their most valuable commodity to waste more of it.
Blackberry, you will be missed.