The only way is down

My good friend and Cloud Advocates colleague, David Terrar (@DT) has just abandoned his Blackberry after many years and picked up his new Iphone 4S. My first comment to him was “about time” but then I started thinking about the meteoric rise of RIM and the Blackberry and their equally steep decline.

RIM were ground breakers with the launch of the Blackberry at a time when smart phones were not that smart and their use as a business tool – other than as a telephone (why should a phone be used for anything else – but hey!) was not seriously considered. They rapidly became the must have accessory for the up and coming business executive and were responsible for many a marriage break up as users became  – literally – addicted to checking their email when ever and where ever they could. There can’t be many gadgets that coin  a new word in the vocabulary – crackberry!

They were ubiquitous – anyone who was anyone had to be seen using their latest Blackberry phone and even President Obama, on taking office, insisted that he still use his and had to have it specially hacker proofed to enable him to do so. They gained a certain notoriety when it became apparent that they were the phone of choice for many who took part in the riots of last year and that the Blackberry messaging service was used to arrange riots and communicate amongst the youths organising the disturbances.

And then it all came to a rapid and sudden halt – not helped by a major disruption to its service in the 3rd quarter of 2011 which left millions without access to their emails over a 3 – 4 day period. At the same time Apple had introduced their latest operating system – IOS 5 and introduced the next iteration of the Ipad and suddenly there was a new kid on the block as far as business communication and acceptable gadgets were concerned.

RIM couldn’t compete – they made a half hearted attempt to do so with the introduction of their Tablet but next to the Ipad, it soon withered on the vine. The latest news is that RIM have laid off staff and proposed new models have been delayed.

So was their fall inevitable? Does it invariably mean that if something is the first of its type and achieves rapid acceptance it stays number 1 only until a competitor comes along and after that the only way is down? Perhaps the lesson to be learnt is that unless a product constantly reinvents itself and remembers to look at itself from the outside – as a competitor – it will make the same errors as so many have done before  and become complacent and uncompetitive.

Apple’s meteoric growth seems unstoppable and so far they appear to have avoided the pitfalls that have effected so many before them. It was, however, interesting to note  a recent headline that announced record Ipad sales but a decline in the  growth in the sale of iphones. Maybe they are going to become a victim of their own success in that with a new model coming out so regularly, fans are not quite sure when to jump in and commit.

Could Apple face the same decline as RIM – seems unlikely at the moment……until something better comes along!