Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BlackBerry Never Had a Chance: Mobile Innovation Is Over

The BlackBerry is all but dead.
On Monday, the Canadian smartphone maker told the world it will finally take itself private, which barely registers as news. The most surprising thing is that the company held on so long.
Most people will tell you that, through a mix of corporate dysfunction and sheer lack of inspiration, BlackBerry failed to hold its own in the smartphone wars of the last half-decade. And so, the voices proclaim, the one-time giant was crushed under the feet of new, more innovative competitors  – the quintessential Silicon Valley tale of creative destruction. It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time, and that looks set to continue in the smartphone arena: The current masters will become tomorrow’s also-rans, and a new upstart will rise to displace the incumbents.
But in the smartphone game, that won’t happen. Even a hypothetically better-run BlackBerry never stood a chance against Apple. Once Apple introduced the iPhone, the paradigm was set — there wasn’t anything especially new the Blackberry could do. Sure, it could have tried to outrace Apple early on to a better version of the same idea, but no one was going to out-Jobs Steve Jobs. (Google only managed to compete by open-sourcing a new operating system — a business model rather than a technological innovation that wasn’t really an option for a hardware maker like BlackBerry.)

As BlackBerry disappears from view, something much larger than the demise of one company is under way in the mobile market. The end of BlackBerry isn’t just about the end of BlackBerry. This could be the end of any radical innovation in mobile, period. Even Apple has run its course: Where else can it go?

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