BlackBerry is still holding on, but the company has had it pretty rough for the past few years. Who’s to blame for its shocking fall from grace? According to co-founder and former co-CEO Jim Balsillie, it all started with the iPhone.
Speaking in public for the first time since he left in 2012, Balsillie dished on the company’s poorly received attempt to compete with Apple. BlackBerry rushed out the touchscreen Storm, a buggy response to the iPhone that apparently had a dismal “100 percent return rate.”
“With Storm we tried to do too much,” he said. “It was a touch display, it was a clickable display, it had new applications, and it was all done in an incredibly short period of time and it blew up on us. That was the time I knew we couldn’t compete on high end hardware.”
Balsillie also says he pushed BlackBerry to release BBM on competing platforms years before it actually happened. The messaging app didn’t arrive on Android and iOS until he had already left. By then it was pretty much too late.
Finally, BlackBerry’s co-founder noted the company’s real issue may have actually been budget smartphones. For the first few years after the iPhone launched, the Waterloo-based firm kept growing quickly, mostly thanks to emerging markets that were still buying BlackBerry devices. Then Android swooped in and started stealing market share in those areas, too.
Despite all its issues, BlackBerry still seems to be hanging on. The company may never return to its former glory, but among a niche customer base—Balsillie included—its QWERTY phones still attract a loyal following.