BlackBerry Ltd is pulling the plug on service for its once-ubiquitous business smartphones, which were toted by executives, politicians and legions of fans in the early 2000s.

Top executives hungered for their “crackberries” and that allowed the company to charge premium prices. 

The addiction propelled it to over $110 billion (USD $80 billion) market capitalisation in 2008. 

BlackBerry’s unique selling point was email on the go. But, soon, iPhones hit the market. 

Former US President Barack Obama, one of BlackBerry’s most celebrated users, made headlines in 2016 when he was asked to give it up and replace it with an unnamed smartphone.

With a more-intuitive operating system and a vast number of apps, users around the world started switching to the iPhone and didn’t stop.

Blackberry’s fall marks the end of an era as the phones, which had tiny QWERTY physical keyboards, pioneered push email and the BBM instant messaging service.

In recent years, the company pivoted to making cybersecurity software and embedded operating systems for cars.

Social media has been alight with tributes. 

One Twitter user reminisced it was a “fabulous machine” and hoped the company’s phones would be resurrected.

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In a document published in 2020, the company said it would take steps to decommission legacy services for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS operating systems and added devices running on them would no longer be supported and may not be able to receive or send data, make phone calls or send messages reliably.

A US judge last week rejected the company’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit claiming it defrauded shareholders by inflating the success and profitability of smartphones using BlackBerry 10 OS, and said the class-action case could go to trial this fall. 

Lesson to learn

Makers of early digital organisers, GPS devices and video cameras have all been likewise gutted by rival gadgets that leapfrogged them. 

Wireless-speaker specialist Sonos, for one, has learned the lesson: It now embeds virtual-assistant technology from Amazon.com.

And TV streaming hardware outfit Roku has moved into content. They have their work cut out to stay in front. 

BlackBerry’s lesson is that, when cult gadgets start losing their edge, it’s hard to pull out of the descent. 

Of course, the company may not agree.

Late last week, Onward Mobility – the company that got the licence to produce BlackBerry phones in 2020 — put out a statement saying: “Contrary to popular belief, we are not dead.”

Onward Mobility says its new 5G BlackBerry phone is still coming, although it was supposed to launch in 2021. 

Reuters/ABC



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