The BlackBerry story is one of amazing success as the company’s two-way email pager became a must-have for any executive. And it also is the story of incredibly painful failure as the company missed the boat when touchscreen phones started to dominate. In the quarter just before the Apple iPhone was unveiled, the fourth quarter of 2006, BlackBerry was the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world with 8.3% of the global market. It still trailed Nokia, which had a 50.2% slice of the global smartphone pie, but business was good.
The beginning of the end for BlackBerry was the unveiling of the iPhone on January 9th, 2007
BlackBerry Messenger was the platform that everyone used for instant messaging on the go. BlackBerry parent Research In Motion (RIM) was run by two CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, and when the late Steve Jobs held the iPhone in his hand on January 9th, 2007, it was the beginning of the end for BlackBerry. Balsillie, more than Lazaridis, failed to take the threat from Apple seriously.
The BlackBerry Storm, the first touchscreen ‘Berry
While BlackBerry did release its first touchscreen model in 2018, the BlackBerry Storm was rushed into production at the request of Verizon which needed a phone to take on the iPhone (at that time, an AT&T exclusive). The screen was designed to make it feel as though a button was pressed every time a key on the virtual QWERTY was tapped. Unfortunately, the first generation model was extremely buggy and while Verizon sold a ton of them, most every unit (including this writer’s phone) was sent back for repair.
The second generation Storm was actually a fantastic device that might have been a contender had the Motorola DROID not been released by Verizon kicking off Androidmania. BlackBerry tried to stay in the game, even licensing its software and name to several firms. But any hope that we would see a 5G ‘Berry ended when BlackBerry pulled its licensing agreement from a company named Outward Mobility earlier this year ending an era.
You might think that all of this might make a great motion picture, and you just might be right. A newspaper in Canada (where BlackBerry was headquartered all these years) called The Globe and Mail (via The Verge) says that production on a BlackBerry movie wrapped this week, although when the film will reach your local cinema is unknown. The film stars Glenn Howerton of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as co-CEO Jim Balsillie who famously said in January 2009 that all phones will come out of the box with huge amounts of bugs in the future.
The movie will be called BlackBerry and is based on the 2015 book Losing the Signal, which this writer has read several times (well, yours truly is a phone enthusiast after all). Playing Mike Lazaridis, the other co-CEO, will be Canadian actor Jay Baruchel.
If two movies about Steve Jobs flopped, does BlackBerry stand a chance?
In real life, the two executives tried to play down the threat from Apple will Balsillie telling the press in 2007, “As nice as the Apple iPhone is, it poses a real challenge to its users. Try typing a web key on a touchscreen on an Apple iPhone, that’s a real challenge. You cannot see what you type.” Lazaridis said in 2018, “The most exciting mobile trend is full Qwerty keyboards. I’m sorry, it really is. I’m not making this up.”
The other actors in the movie include Michael Ironside, Saul Rubinek, Martin Donovan, Rich Sommer, and Saw star Carey Elwes. The picture was written and directed by Matt Johnson who said, “BlackBerry is the kind of movie I never thought I could make in this country, but it’s a bright new day for Canadian film. Bold (no pun intended we are sure), director-driven cinema is back with the full force of the 1980s. Let’s go.”
Since the movie has just wrapped, it is too early to have a release date to pass along. Does the BlackBerry story carry enough intrigue and drama to get the average guy and gal to buy tickets to see the movie? That remains to be seen. After all, two movies about the late Steve Jobs flopped at the box office even with Ashton Kutcher and Michael Fassbender starring as Apple’s mythical leader.
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