Talking tech since 2003

Last year the biggest tech failure was Color, this year that award goes to BlackBerry (though it could have been Healthcare.gov).  I’m sure you can agree with me when I say the entirety of 2013 has just been terrible for the company.  But let’s relive the year as BlackBerry shall we?

It all started on January 30, when the company introduced the brand new Z10 and Q10 smartphones — both of which ran the brand new BlackBerry 10 operating system.  The presentation was awkward to say the least, but it become even more strange when the company announced that pop singer Alicia Keys would be its global creative director.

And as we wrote at the time, “it’s hard to tell at this point whether the position is a serious one, or if BlackBerry is just cashing in on Keys’ name recognition to give BlackBerry 10 a boost.”  After a year of not hearing anything from BlackBerry about Alicia Keys, I think we can all safely say that it was just a stunt.  And a failed one at that.

Then after some delays and a rumored good start in sales (which turned out to not be true), BlackBerry became desperate and did something it refused to do for many years — it announced BBM would be making its way to iOS and Android.  But even the release of BBM for iOS and Android didn’t go smoothly for the company.  After not being ready for a summer launch like they said, when the company finally did launch the apps, they had to pull them from the App Store shortly thereafter due to not being able to handle the additional user load and ended up delaying the launch by another few weeks.

There was also the fact that BlackBerry was looking to sell itself and go private, but even that deal fell apart in the end and Thorsten Heins was out as CEO.  The new BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, wrote perhaps the most uninspiring letter to customers not long after taking the office.  And then in its most recent quarterly earnings, the company announced a massive sales decline, yet newly minted CEO John Chen says the company will be profitable by 2016.  I don’t even think BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis bought into Mr. Chen’s claims as he just unloaded over 3 million shares of BBRY stock worth over $26 million.

BBRY is down almost 40 percent in the past year alone.  The smartphone maker is in a terrible position, one that I think could have been different if they didn’t ignore the iPhone for so long.  It wasn’t until late 2008 that the company released the BlackBerry Storm, the first real iPhone competitor from BlackBerry and it sucked.  It felt like a complete rush job.  All of the diehard BlackBerry fans I knew who bought it ended up hating it and moving to an iPhone or an Android device.  Had they done the Storm right, the company may have been in a very different situation right now.

So will 2014 be a year of redemption for BlackBerry?  It’s not looking likely, but we’ll see.


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