The Scarlet Letter “B”: The Embarrassment of BlackBerry

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We’re at the sad, ironic and kinda funny point where people are actually embarrassed that they own a BlackBerry smartphone.  The once mighty business tool and symbol of the tech-elite has become a scarlet letter of shame.  Until very recently, I held out hope for RIM – ITW’s history with corporate BlackBerry rollouts and support is long and deep.  There was also a point of national pride in knowing that a Waterloo tech firm had revolutionized and dominated the mobile device world.  Now it looks they are in a pretty deep, dark, and depressing hole.  I’m pretty much a convert …  love my iPhone, it works great for email, calendaring, and even letting me access my desktop resources with the Citrix Receiver.  For many, it’s getting pretty hard to remember why we loved the BlackBerry so much.  The New York Times recently published a great article on the growing phenomenon of BlackBerry embarrassment.  BlackBerry has gone from 50% to 5% market share in the US in just three years.  Yikes. 

The tide is obviously turning – not just in the consumer markets, but we’re seeing more and more large enterprises decommissioning BlackBerrys for their staff and rolling out iPhones and Androids.  What I find really striking is the cultural impact this is having on people.  The New York times did a great job of capturing this:

Rachel Crosby speaks about her BlackBerry phone the way someone might speak of an embarrassing relative. “I’m ashamed of it,” said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her. …

As the list shrinks of friends who once regularly communicated using BlackBerry’s private messaging service, called BBM, many a BlackBerry owner will not mince words about how they feel about their phone.

“I want to take a bat to it,” Ms. Crosby said, after waiting for her phone’s browser to load for the third minute, only to watch the battery die. “You can’t do anything with it. You’re supposed to, but it’s all a big lie.” (full article)

It’s going to be interesting to see what RIM does in the coming months – whether they can dig themselves out of the darkness and restore our civic pride.  In the meantime, I am going to ask Siri what she thinks about all this.

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