Flashback to year 2000 and the excitement for executives who were able to get email away from the office and conduct business professionally from a wireless mobile device. The Blackberry created a sense of business freedom so revolutionary it became the first steps for the global consumer to live their life via a single mobile device. BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) was Apple, Inc. (AAPL) before Apple.
The advent of the Blackberry (Research in Motion or RIMM) quickly evolved into humans staring at their mobile device, removed from the current world and solving office problems that were more important than where they stood. This remote management, remote communication tool was called a "crackberry" because it seemed to be more addictive than smoking crack – and it was about to revolutionize all communication.
Fifteen years later after several missteps, Blackberry is trying again to capture those days and reignite the brand. What they are really trying to do is hold onto anyone who still has an allegiance to the Blackberry brand before they go away completely. This will not happen, and the crackberry days will go the way of the Betamax, 8 Track and the cassette tape – it will head slowly into oblivion, knowing that although they were the first groundbreaker, in the end they missed the boat. They blew it, and the fat lady has sung.
Blackberry Gets Bit By Apple
Shares of Blackberry were essentially Apple before Apple, but the Dot Com Bust took valuation from $25B to under $1B. That is, until the technology sector sorted itself out, and accordingly, Blackberry led the recovery, rising to a $100B valuation in 2008 – see this 10-year Yahoo chart for Blackberry shares.
Today, after an earnings report, the total value of the company is under $6 billion. This will go down in history as one of the largest missed opportunities, alongside monumental failures like Digital Equipment Corp. ($DEC) in computer hardware in the 1980's and Eastman Kodak ($KODK) missing the photo opportunity and misunderstanding the consumer desire to easily take, store and view photos. The failure of Blackberry is arguably the one the greatest missed opportunities in American history.
The Internet of Things Spurs a New Revolution
The trail of failed companies litters the technology road. Yet, as I watch a revolutionary company report earnings and get closer to extinction, it highlights that much can happen in 15 years in the Age of The Internet of Things, where change can so quickly eliminate an entire company. This disruptive trend is continuing today, with hotel rooms with the likes of AirBnB. We will look back in the future to get an understanding of why they failed – by then, it will probably seem obvious.
Blackberry failed because they never expanded their services beyond answering remote emails when the world wanted to text, chat, take photos, watch video and TV, listen to music, get directions and track their heart rate. They wanted to do all this with one device, and they wanted to do it effortlessly and inexpensively, but unfortunately, the Blackberry was not up to the task – only Steve Jobs could see what the consumer wanted and how much they were willing to pay. What’s more, he had what it took to execute it.
Soon, we will say goodbye to the Blackberry, just as we said goodbye to Digital Equipment and Kodak. If you don't believe me, look to your left and note the person staring at their phone…
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