BlackBerry (Canada)

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BlackBerry is one of several mobile communications brands to have enjoyed a brief moment in the sun before imploding in the wake of Samsung and Apple's global dominance. Canadian manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) arguably set the standard for mobile corporate communications during the early 2000s, and by mid-decade its BlackBerry handset had established itself as the preferred mobile communications device for business users. However, from 2009 onwards, BlackBerry's early lead in the smartphone market was gradually undermined, first by Apple's more consumer-friendly iPhone, and then by the emergence of devices powered by Google's Android system. What was at first a slow decline in performance accelerated rapidly from 2011, making RIM's survival as an independent company by no means certain. In 2013, the company announced plans to exit the consumer market in favour of business customers. Somehow it has struggled on since then, despite a continuing fall in its customers. It stopped making handsets inhouse altogether in 2016, licensing out those rights to Chinese company TCL.

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Mar 2017: Welcome to the return of the living dead! One of the most widely publicised takeaways from Mobile World Congress this week has been the relaunch of the Nokia mobile brand. This is not from Nokia itself, which now only makes network infrastructure; nor from Microsoft, which bought the Nokia handset business for billions and then effectively shuttered it last year at a cost of millions more. The maker this time is independent company HMD Global, which acquired the Nokia brand license and is now re-entering the market with a new line of smartphones. You'd hardly know about those, though, because the device that got all the media coverage is a revamp of the iconic Nokia 3310 "chocolate bar" handset, probably the first mobile phone owned by anyone over the age of 40. Such is the power of short-term nostalgia that the biggest hit of Nokia's relaunch is not those new smart devices but an updated dumbphone, that will be purchased "ironically" by a few retro hipsters and then dumped a month or two later. It doesn't even have 3G. But it does have that old chestnut, the "Snake" game, and a battery charge that lasts a month. Yeah, because it's only 2G. So no wi-fi either. We give new Nokia a year at best before it crashes and burns like its predecessor. And there's a new Blackberry device too. Like corporate Nokia, corporate Blackberry quit the device market after losing almost all its one-time Crackberry addicts. However that brand too was licensed by Chinese manufacturer TCL, which has unveiled its first device under the once-celebrated name, the Blackberry KeyOne. Good luck with that.

Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Dec 2016: The BlackBerry name is destined to continue on handsets following a deal between struggling BlackBerry Inc and Chinese manufacturer TCL Communication Technology. BlackBerry recently announced plans to stop manufacturing mobile devices in order to concentrate exclusively on software and security solutions. However it has agreed to license global rights for BlackBerry-branded devices to TCL for an undisclosed sum. The latter also has rights to the Alcatel brand on mobile devices, in addition to its own branded devices.

Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Sep 2016: In an end-of-era moment, BlackBerry announced plans to suspend all development of mobile handsets, following another sharp decline in revenues for the latest quarter. It will instead focus its attention exclusively on software and solutions. Executive chairman John Chen said the company will license the BlackBerry name to third-party hardware manufacturers. It has agreed one such deal with a division of one of Indonesia's largest mobile providers, and hopes to make similar arrangements in China and India. Group revenues for the quarter to August slipped by almost a third to $334m, their lowest level since 2004. Revenues from outside North America more than halved, and a write-off against the company's remaining hardware inventory created a net loss of $372m. BlackBerry's current market cap is just $4bn, down from over $80bn at its peak in 2010.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd April 2015: BlackBerry reported another massive plunge in revenues, which more than halved for the year to Feb 2015 to just $3.34bn (from almost $20bn four years ago). However the group reported a small but unexpected profit for the final quarter, and would have reported a small surplus for the year as well if not for a large non-cash amortisation charge and accounting adjustments. Executive chairman John Chen reassured investors that the company was no longer in danger of collapse, and asked for patience over its recovery.

Adbrands Weekly Update 26th Jun 2014: BlackBerry reported a modest but unexpected profit for its first quarter, despite a steep fall in revenues. Earnings were $23m, a big improvement on last quarter's $423m loss. However, topline plunged by 69% against the year-ago quarter to $966m. Executive chairman John Chen credited a stringent cost-cutting programme for the improvement in earnings but warned shareholders that there is still a lot of work to do. The company sold around 2.6m phones in the period, of which almost two-thirds were BB10 devices. Although its popularity has virtually evaporated in the US and much of Western Europe, BlackBerry still has a strong following in emerging markets, especially in Asia.

 

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Background

Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: BlackBerry was originally the creation of electronics engineer and self-confessed "technology geek" Mike Lazaridis. As a student in the early 1980s at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Lazaridis became involved in project work on the side for various computer developers. As a result, he decided in 1984 to quit university before finishing his degree and launched his own company under the name Research In Motion. Initially Lazaridis hired himself out to manufacturers, building computer circuits or improving upon operating systems developed by other researchers. The company's first proprietary product was an easy-to-programme electronic signboard for stores. That led to a commission from General Motors, which in turn led to a contract to develop wireless data systems for the electronic pager division of Canadian company Rogers Communications.

The systems in which Rogers was interested were based around new wireless data technology being developed by Ericsson of Sweden. Building upon what it had learnt from the Rogers contract, RIM designed a tiny radio modem which could be installed in a variety of products ranging from computers to vending machines to transmit data. Significantly, these systems transmitted data via radio packets rather than through cellular communications. This not only allowed for messages to be sent using the optimum efficiency and speed, but also allowed for a permanent connection. The company began to concentrate exclusively on wireless data communications. In the mid-1990s, working with Intel, RIM designed a smart pager which, unlike most existing devices, could send as well as receive messages. It offered a full qwerty keyboard, a small data screen, and a built-in contact manager and scheduler. This was launched commercially in 1997 as the Inter@ctive Pager, latterly by BellSouth, and RIM signed up several major corporate clients, including IBM, which rolled out the device to all its field sales and service representatives in North America.

RIM issued an IPO in 1998, and began to develop an upgraded version of the pager, which could also link into corporate email servers using Microsoft Exchange software. Designed as a mobile email device, this launched in 1999 under the new name of BlackBerry by RIM. The name was chosen initially because an executive at naming consultancy Lexicon thought the letter keys on the device looked like the seeds on a strawberry. The idea of a strawberry seemed too slow, so the name Blackberry was proposed instead. Among the new product's key benefits were the price, at $399 some $200 cheaper than its main rival, the Palm VII handheld; but it also offered push-delivery, so that emails were delivered instantaneously to the device, saving users from having to log in manually to collect them. The first BlackBerrys were marketed in the US through BellSouth and by Rogers Cantel AT&T in Canada. Gradually, however, a number of other customers signed up to supply the BlackBerry service, and RIM negotiated sales and distribution partnerships with Dell, Compaq and other resellers. In 2000, the BlackBerry was named Product of the Year by InfoWorld magazine, which said it "wins hands down when it comes to easy and timely access to e-mail messages." A year later, an upgraded product range featured a larger screen, offered web browsing, and was also compatible with Lotus Notes and Domino email servers as well as Microsoft Exchange. 

The popularity of BlackBerry continued to spread rapidly. In September 2001, the value of RIM's radio-based email delivery system proved itself when it continued to operate in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, when cellular communications were blacked out. That resulted in a sharp surge in orders from regional law enforcement and emergency services. The first voice-enabled BlackBerrys, offering phone service as well as always-on email connectivity launched in 2002 through partners including AT&T Wireless, VoiceStream, and Cingular Wireless in the US and Rogers and Microcell in Canada. Later that year, BlackBerry launched in Europe through partnerships with Vodafone in the UK, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, SFR in France and Telecom Italia in Italy. Telefonica launched the service in Spain in early 2003. After that, RIM continued to develop its range of products and service partners, and the expansion of highspeed mobile connections encouraged substantial growth in the company's subscriber base. See full profile for current activities


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