By Nnamdi Odumody
On Friday, May 31 2019, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), the chat messaging solution from Blackberry (formerly Research In Motion), was shut down, after 13 years of operation. BBM was a category-king in the chat messaging solution after disrupting Yahoo Messenger as customers focus shifted from the web internet to mobile. Its rival in mobile chat messaging was the Nokia Instant Messenger which ran on the defunct Symbian Operating System.
The decline of the Blackberry started two years ago after the release of the Blackberry Storm which is supposed to be Blackberry multimedia phone. Just two years ago, Blackberry and iPhone were the players seen to be fighting for number one, not android and iPhone. In late 2008, RIM released the Blackberry Storm (without wifi). It was this device that was supposed to be the iPhone killer. An Engadget review of the Storm notes that Verizon, Storm’s partner, was Apple’s first choice for the then soon-to-launch iPhone, “Verizon refused and Apple took its multi-billion dollar ball to AT&T. But software glitches and lackluster reviews like that from Engadget killed the Storm, people simple didn’t like the product, and a high return rate likely worried Verizon.
Owning a Blackberry mobile device which was a symbol of prestige in its era of dominance came with a customized PIN for access to communication. With unique features as BBM stickers which set the foundation for emojis on all social media chat platforms, Blackberry failed to pay attention to the ecosystem Apple and Google were creating, by making their mobile operating systems iOS and Android open to developers around the world to build applications.
As iOS and Android grew, other ecosystem evolved. WhatsApp was devastating to Blackberry, and that was compounded by the ban on BBM by governments in Asia and the Middle East due to the inability to access citizens’ data in the platform.
Blackberry would later adopt the Android operating system for its mobile devices and put its BBM as an application on the popular platforms but by then it was too late. The world will remember BBM as a case study of creative destruction at scale.
According to Schumpeter, the “gale of creative destruction” describes the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”. In Marxian economic theory the concept refers more broadly to the linked processes of the accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism.