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BlackBerry Phones Are Dead, Long Live BlackBerry Security

Before Apple and Android dominated the market, BlackBerry was one the most prominent smartphone brands in the world.

BlackBerry

Even a decade and a half ago, BlackBerry phones ruled the world. The devices became an in-thing for business users and celebrities, world leaders and normal folks – thanks in part to its great reputation for security. Of course, many of us are aware that the dominance of Apple iPhone and cheaper Android phones brought an end to these once ubiquitous mobile phones.

While the end of Blackberry was reported several times before, January 4, 2022 was the date to mourn the death of Blackberry devices, finally, as the phone maker officially ends support for its classic devices running BlackBerry 10, 7.1 OS and earlier.

This means all of its older devices not running on Android software will no longer be able to use data, send text messages, access the internet or make even emergency calls.

The Canadian phone maker originally announced the news in September 2020 as part of its efforts to focus on providing security software and services to enterprises and governments around the world under the name BlackBerry Limited.

The legacy of BlackBerry phones

The company got its start in 1996 as Research in Motion (RIM) with what it called two-way pagers (Inter@ctive Pager 900). Three years later, RIM introduced the BlackBerry 850 an email pager and a slew of other legacy phones.

BlackBerry’s mobile phones from the late 1990s and early 2000s were once so popular that people called them “CrackBerries.” The keyboard appealed to professionals who wanted the flexibility of working outside the office with some of the tools they used on a desktop computer.

Eventually, BlackBerry phones gained support for email, apps, web browsing and BBM, an encrypted text messaging platform that predated WhatsApp and survived long after BlackBerry was surpassed by its rivals.

On January 30, 2013, BlackBerry announced the release of the Z10 and Q10 smartphones. Both the models consist of touch screens. In fact, the Q10 also combines a QWERTY keyboard alongside touchscreen features. The very same year, at its marketing peak, BlackBerry had over 85 million subscribers worldwide.

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google from 2001 to 2011, is a longtime BlackBerry user. Although smartphones running Google’s Android mobile operating system compete with BlackBerry, Schmidt said in a 2013 interview that he uses a BlackBerry because he prefers its keyboard. Kim Kardashian was also a BlackBerry user. In 2014, she said at a conference that “BlackBerry has my heart and soul. I love it. I’ll never get rid of it” and “I have anxiety that I will run out and I won’t be able to have a BlackBerry. I’m afraid it will go extinct.”

The list of BlackBerry users were long… the going was good too, but the primary competitors of the BlackBerry are Android smartphones and the iPhone, as the company struggled to compete against both and its market share has plunged since 2011, leading to speculation that it will be unable to survive as an independent entity. However, it still managed to maintain significant positions in some market.

Experts also blame BlackBerry’s subsequent decline down to problems with its operating software, and how few apps could be download compared to Apple and Android devices.

While BlackBerry has been mostly out of the phone business since 2016, over the years it continued to license its brand to phone manufacturers, including TCL and more recently OnwardMobility, an Austin, Texas-based security startup, for a 5G Blackberry device running on Android software.

Roots in cybersecurity

In recent years, the Canadian major completely focuses on cybersecurity and provides operating systems for cars, as the auto industry moves toward autonomy.

In December 2021, BlackBerry beat Wall Street estimates for third-quarter revenue driven by sustained demand for its cybersecurity and Internet of Things products.

In 2020, a Frost and Sullivan report said that BlackBerry’s cybersecurity solutions address 96% of all cybersecurity threats. And today cybersecurity accounts for approximately two-thirds of the company’s revenue.

One thing is certain that BlackBerry is going back to its roots. At the core, it remains a cybersecurity company. To recall, at the height of its popularity, people loved their BlackBerry devices for many reasons. One of the overlooked reasons was the safety and security that was built into their phones. And needless to mention, over the last 5-6 years, BlackBerry  completed its transition to a security software business.

The global cybersecurity market is valued at $21 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow to $345.4 billion by 2026. It is here that the company may find some comfort.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com