Blackberry Blunderland

Taking a temporary break from photography, let’s talk about Blackberry for a moment. The news has not been good – the company is up for sale and its new products are not doing well in the market place.

What went wrong? I humbly submit that Thorsten Heins, Blackberry’s CEO, ranks right up there with the generals of WWI as a strategic bungler. Let me use a warfare analogy to explain.

Three years ago, the battlefield was set. Blackberry’s position was strategically strong, but weakening. It’s troops were positioned on a hilltop, with a nice moat surrounding it, in the middle of Corporateland. It had some nice weapons: a keyboard, BBM, secure e-mail and loyal corporate customers. However, it’s weapons were getting obsolete in a hurry.

Over in Consumerland, Apple had built a huge mountain and a deep moat. Its weapons were state of the art. As its mountain grew, it was edging into Corporateland, giving Blackberry’s generals cause for concern.

In Consumerland, another big mountain, the Google mountain, was being built with a very large budget and highly skilled craftsmen. Apple was getting concerned.

Straddling Consumerland and Corporateland was a small hill being built with a very high budget, but poor workmanship. This was the Windows mountain. No one was getting concerned.

Thorsten Heins surveyed the landscape from his perch on the Blackberry mountain and made a mistake of historical proportions. Instead of fighting the war from his position of strength, he decided to move his army down into the valley between Google mountain and Apple mountain and fight a guerrilla war. The crazy thing about this was that Google was offering to GIVE Blackberry copies of its weapons for FREE. 

Yes, Blackberry could have quickly turned out an Android phone with a modern operating system, a keyboard, secure e-mail and BBM AND access to all the apps in the Google store. And it could have done this very quickly.

But no, Thorsten, in a fit of ego or false pride, marched his army down from his hill, across his moat and into the valley of death. Here, he invented his own weapons, BB10, and bravely fought a battle to the death with Apple and Google, with Windows edging into Corporateland behind his back. While his weapons were respectable, they were not state-of-the-art, lacking apps. The delay to march the army downhill was costly. The strategic position that ensued was untenable. All the brave souls were lost.

This will be a case study in business schools for a long time. I hope you didn’t own any stock.



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