After 14 years in the business, BlackBerry will no longer be making phones. John Chen, BlackBerry’s CEO, said that the company would now be focusing on “software development, including security and applications”. According to Chen, the company may outsource the function of hardware development to external partners. That will allow them to “reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital”.
The news should not really come as a surprise to anyone with a remote interest in the mobile industry. Last year, we featured an article by James Rosewell, the Founder and CEO of 51Degrees, which shortly chronicled the modern history of BlackBerry as well as the reasons for its rise and fall. BlackBerry never really managed to catch up to the modern demands of the mobile industry, particularly because it failed to compete with iOS and Android. Its most recent offerings, such as the BlackBerry Priv and Passport, arrived too late with too little.
BlackBerry’s iconic keyboard and heavy emphasis on security made it a top choice for the business world and, in September of 2013, the company had 85 million subscribers worldwide. However, that number had already fallen to 23 million by March 2013 and most of those subscribers were in developing countries. BlackBerry had simply lost its appeal for the modern audience of smartphones who were increasingly opting for iPhones and various Android devices. The company’s own turn to Android could not save it from extinction as its recent phones were too expensive to compete in the current market.
Of course, this does not mean that this is the end of BlackBerry. Quite the contrary, in fact. If they can manage to push their security suites and software into the market, they can certainly manage to come out on top. Despite any mistakes committed in the past, BlackBerry is still a very recognizable name, particularly in specific niches. Its security software has long been lauded as top notch and the company has also been known to manufacture robust products time and time again.
BlackBerry phones will continue to be sold in a number of countries but none will be produced or designed by the eponymous company. Chen’s comments were not clear on the matter but they seem to indicate that BlackBerry will not pursue another hardware-minded endeavor in the future. For now, it would seem a smart choice to focus entirely on the software side of things and leave any hardware-minded processes for another time.
Marking the end of an era is never easy but it seems nearly inevitable in this market. BlackBerry is now following into Nokia’s shoes as yet another brand name that will continue to touch people’s lips but not their hands. Chen may have made considerable and remarkable efforts to reintroduce BlackBerry to a modern audience but it was most likely too late for the company to recover. Those who still lust after the company’s keyboards will now have to look to external accessories to get their fix. And who knows, perhaps BlackBerry will now finally license its keyboards to external distributors too.