- 18 Hot IT Certifications for 2014
- CIOs Opting for IT Contractors Over Hiring Full-Time Staff
- 12 Best Free iOS 7 Holiday Shopping Apps
- For CMOs Big Data Can Lead to Big Profits
CIO - This post has been a long time coming.
I started covering Research In Motion (RIM), now BlackBerry, for CIO.com in 2005. That was less than 10 years ago, but the world was a different place, especially when you're talking technology.
No iPhone. (GASP!) The cloud was just a thing in the sky. Bringing your own device to work was unheard of. IT and the business were like oil and water. And the BlackBerry was an advanced business tool, used almost exclusively by professionals. If you had one, you were "special," so much so that many BlackBerry users wore visible holsters on their belts, not out of function but to make sure everyone saw their brick-like devices.
Starting in 2007, I focused on BlackBerry almost exclusively, It was right around the time the company released its first consumer-friendly BlackBerry, the Pearl. In the following years, I attended all of the company's significant events and the majority of its product launches in cities across America. I interviewed an array of BlackBerry staffers, including product managers, VPs and CEOs in fancy suites on the highest floors of luxury hotels. I attended professional sporting event and concerts with many BlackBerry folks, some of whom remain friends to this day. I gained access to celebrity spokespeople and "futurists." I led sessions and spoke to crowds at BlackBerry World conferences. I studied the BlackBerry OS as closely as I've ever studied anything and mastered every in and every out. I ingratiated myself into the BlackBerry ecosystem and built relationships with BlackBerry partners of all kinds.
In the process, I pleased, pissed off and placated BlackBerry and its PR department in equal measure over the years. I made a name for myself in mobile, thanks largely to my coverage of the Canadian company.
Today, BlackBerry is on the brink of a major sale, and the company could be dismantled and sold for parts by the close of the year. Whatever the outcome, the future is bleak for BlackBerry.
Time to Say Goodbye to BlackBerry
For a long time, I tried to come up with reasons to stay positive and keep the faith in the company. But it's not my job to smother readers in blind loyalty - quite the contrary, really. It's clear that readers aren't as interested in BlackBerry, either; overall traffic to my stories has waned along with interest in the platform.
During the past year, I received so many emails, pitches and even suggestions from coworkers about writing my thoughts on what happened to BlackBerry, and why "BlackBerry is doomed," that I lost count. For the most part, I avoid these types of stories. Frankly, they're clichA(c), and I don't want to kick the company when it is down. I never pull punches when they are called for, but I also never throw sucker punches.
My colleague, CIO.com Senior Online Writer Tom Kaneshige, has been ribbing me for years about BlackBerry, asking when I'm finally going to admit that BlackBerry is "dead." In May 2010, we wrote companion pieces about the future of wireless. He suggested that BlackBerry was already dead, while I argued the company could still surprise a lot of people.
Well, Tom, you were right. And I was wrong.
This post is my official way of saying goodbye to the company, though I'm well aware that BlackBerry is still not "dead." I've unofficially moved away from BlackBerry coverage during the past couple of years, but I will continue to write about it when appropriate.
The following 20 stories are some of my favorite and most noteworthy pieces during the past eight years. They paint an interesting picture of both RIM/BlackBerry and my coverage of the company that paved the way for the modern smartphone and changed all of our lives.
Eight Years of BlackBerry in 20 Stories
I covered BlackBerry randomly before 2005, but the high-profile patent battle between RIM and patent-holding firm NTP, which threatened a major shutdown of all BlackBerry services in the mid-2000s, was the catalyst for my future coverage. It quickly became clear in 2006 that CIO.com's audience was very interested in the BlackBerry, so I started packaging all of my related content and writing any and all news I could find.
In 2007, I decided I wanted to build my hands-on knowledge of BlackBerry and its handhelds, so I reached out for the first time to RIM PR. The company agreed to send me four BlackBerry Pearl 8100 smartphones so I could distribute three to CIO sources for review and keep one for my own purposes. That's right: Four devices. No other tech company has every sent me that many gadgets at once, and I doubt any would today if I begged. Imagine asking Apple for four new iPhones to review?
The resulting review was very well received and cemented my idea to focus more exclusively on BlackBerry. Read it here if you're interested.
Almost a year later, in March 2008, I wrote about a report from analyst firm Canalys that concluded, "Nokia is the mobile device maker with the best innovation and implementation strategies, followed by Research In Motion (RIM)...and Samsung." Today, both BlackBerry and Nokia are being acquired, and Samsung rules the (Android) world. It's hard to believe that just six years ago, these two troubled companies were seen as leaders of tech innovation.
A few months later, I asked BlackBerry if I could interview one of its co-CEOs. After some convincing, I got that interview with Mike Lazaridis at the 2008 Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES), now called BlackBerry World. I walked into Lazaridis's penthouse suite overlooking Orlando and started setting up an awkward, oversized recording device, only for the man to make fun of me.
"When are you going to put that hideous thing away and start using a BlackBerry to record interviews?" Lazaridis asked with a semi-sneer.
I was already nervous - this was one of the first times I interviewed a bigwig of a major company - and I was admittedly impressed with Lazaridis. I rushed to get the recorder in place and hit the wrong button to begin recording. Luckily, I take good notes, so all was not lost.
I only briefly discussed Apple and the iPhone with Lazaridis, but his comments on the subject are what stick out most in my mind.