BlackBerry, one of the best-known Canadian brands, neck and neck with Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey and Celine Dion, has announced that it is seeking a joint venture or a sale. This is good news, bad news and no news. The company, which has gambled its future on the tenth iteration of its operating system but failed to take it to market, has realised it needs help. That’s good.
However, sales and JVs don’t always help technology to grow. Who is on board matters. In 2008, Nokia had acquired Symbian, the top phone OS of the time, which traced its ancestry to Psion’s EPOC, the pathbreaking palmtop OS. After joining hands with NTT DoCoMo and Sony Ericsson to publicly license it through the Symbian Foundation, Nokia defected in favour of Windows Phone. Symbian, a superb OS, began to lag behind Android. With respect to BlackBerry, companies usually put themselves on the block after sounding out the best options privately. These may not have worked out, suggesting that BlackBerry will get seconds. That’s bad news.
Finally, this is not news at all since the death rattle of the brand has been perfectly audible for years. Android and Apple surged ahead after the app market exploded in 2008. Indeed, IDC reports that almost 80% of smartphones shipped in Q2 were Android. BlackBerry invested those years in ignoring customers and carrying on as if the world still wanted a big keyboard to write mails when it wanted screen real estate and apps. Today, with governments everywhere eager to eavesdrop, bulletproof security is impossible anyway. So, irrespective of whether BlackBerry can develop products and projects which attract buyers and investors, it increasingly looks like it is becoming history.