Why the Last Blackberry User in Silicon Valley Finally Gave It Up

By Sarah Lacy , written on January 23, 2012

From The News Desk

I must have been the last person in Silicon Valley insisting Blackberries were still cool. Even when I finally got an iPhone, I still carried both. Why? The physical keyboard.

This is not a revelation. I talk to people all the time who admit they miss their old Blackberry physical keyboard. It just made messaging easier. It was what made the Blackberry awesome to begin with. I mean, duh. It's something everyone on earth who'd ever picked up a Blackberry knew.

Everyone except the senior management of RIM, that is. In a bid to lamely try to out-do Apple, why did RIM screw up the one thing we liked about it?

We see this all the time in technology: Someone builds a hot company and when someone outdoes them they go through the same stages of technology grief. First they deny that the product is really that revolutionary. Then they insist that their customers won't switch. Then they say there's room for both in the market. Then they pathetically try to ape the younger hotter company, which is about as cool as your dad trying to breakdance. Then they lose.

Every. Time.

Yahoo did it with Google and now Google-- a company that should know better-- is doing it with Facebook.

At least Palm tried to do something original when it was on the ropes. It made a ballsy Hail Mary pass, bringing in a new management team and taking $325 million in private equity in an attempt to reinvent itself. The Hail Mary didn't work. Part of that was Palm's fault, botching the release of the Pre and picking the wrong carrier to go with. Part of that was out of Palm's hands: Google's strong push with Android killed Palm's hopes of being the iPhone alternative in the market.

What has Blackberry done? Tried to copy Apple, while its executives insisted there was not a problem. This is a doubly stupid strategy.

Why on earth would anyone buy a touchscreen Blackberry with no keyboard when there are iPhones on the market? I'm not even a big Apple fan boy, and I get it.

Meanwhile, Blackberry killed the phone that I loved, by trying to cram more and more Web and social features onto it that the phone couldn't handle. I got a new Bold a year ago, after leaving my old one in a cab. The new Bold crashed daily trying to pull in updates from Facebook and Twitter along with email and texts. It was like hitching a train to a pony and expecting him to be a steam engine. I already had a steam engine in the form of an iPhone. I bought a Blackberry because it was a pony. RIM just killed my pony. So now I just carry an iPhone. Way to go, RIM.

Would the novelty of the keyboard have saved Blackberry? Of course not. It still needed to innovate. And it likely still would have failed. But there was at least the kernel of a useful product in there that was utterly different than the value proposition of the iPhone, and that was something.