Left behind, BlackBerry licking wounds
When she headed the Center for Economic Growth in Albany a decade ago, Kelly Waters (formerly Kelly Lovell) was a big fan of the BlackBerry.
Legions of business executives like her were so addicted to the mobile device’s then-novel ability to send and receive email on the run that the gadget was dubbed the CrackBerry.
Nowadays, Waters uses an iPhone — “begrudgingly,” she says — also like many of the device’s former devotees.
BlackBerrys once ruled what became the smartphone market. From nearly 50 percent dominance in 2004, its market share today is just 2 percent, according to a graphic published over the weekend by the New York Times.
On Friday, parent BlackBerry Ltd. announced a huge loss for the fiscal second-quarter — $965 million — on revenue that dropped by nearly half from a year earlier. One big take-away for analysts was the 3.7 million BlackBerrys sold in the three-month period versus the 9 million iPhone 5 units sold in their debut weekend in September.
BlackBerry Ltd. failed to recognize the threat posed by the iPhone when it was introduced in 2007, according to the New York Times, and later efforts at new products — including replacing BlackBerry’s favored keyboard with a touch screen — fell flat.
The company currently is in buyout talks to be taken private and says plans are under way to return its focus to business and government users.
The federal government still is BlackBerry’s biggest customer, the Washington Post reported, preferred for an operating system that is perceived as more secure than those used in other devices. In New York, BlackBerrys account for about 60 percent of the mobile devices used in state service, according to the Office of Information Technology Services.
For Waters, the shift from BlackBerry to iPhone three years ago came “not because I wanted to — more because the device just wasn’t working for the way I need to use IT to run my company.”
Waters is managing director and co-partner with her husband, Jack, in Waters Group Global in Rockford, Ill., near Chicago, which helps companies and communities articulate and manage change.
Since she’s usually on the road, Waters said, she needed portable devices “that all worked together seamlessly”; getting her BlackBerry to sync with everything else required too many extra steps and work-arounds.
“If I was still working for a company where BlackBerry was supported by its enterprise platform and was kept up and running by an IT professional, I might still be using that device,” she told me by email this week.
“I still long for a real keyboard on my phone,” said Waters, who returns to the area for board commitments and family visits. “Despite my best efforts, I am much slower and have more typos when using an iPhone than I ever did with BlackBerry.”
Husband Jack, whose expertise is in aerospace, also works as a full-time test pilot with Boeing, Waters said, where he was assigned a BlackBerry. Meanwhile, an iPhone is his preferred personal mobile device.
“Ironically, I left BlackBerry reluctantly and he joined it — via Boeing — reluctantly,” she said. So the future of BlackBerry Ltd. and how corporate and government clients may be affected is a topic of conversation in the Waters household, she said.
Their best guess? With its large corporate enterprise platform, which includes the federal government contracts, BlackBerry Ltd. will survive in some form, Waters said.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at email@example.com.