How blackberry lost its competitive advantage: An unscientific view from the UAE

I started using my Black Berry again (long story why I stopped using it) - and it got me to wondering why blackberry went from number 1 in the UAE to "I can't wait to get rid of my bb" in just two short years.

Of course, when I want wisdom from my students (and they are wise and speak with their very high disposable income), I ask them. So, on our mid-term one of the questions they could answer was about how blackberry lost its competitive advantage (I use blackberry and not RIM - but you all understand what I mean):

The question:

In November 2011 Blackberry phones made up over 50% of the smartphone market in the UAE. That is no longer the case. Competitive advantage can be built (and lost) using several different factors.  Please provide a brief definition of competitive advantage, list the different factors and briefly define each in your own words.  Then, please explain why and how Blackberry has LOST its competitive advantage in the UAE market. Use specific and real examples for each point and explain what you mean (don’t just list items).

Before I get to the answers, first a short refresher on competitive advantage: competitive advantage is simply being better than your competition - so you can sell more stuff, sell it for a higher price or be so awesome that people put themselves on waiting lists or travel 100s of km to buy your product or service.
Well, there is that - but nerdy researchers (like me in case you are new to this blog) look for patterns (patterns make us giddy) that explain the why of things. We always need to know why (yes, kind of like a three year old that is never satisfied with an answer...).
So, after looking at these patterns the simplest theory is that there are four ways to build competitive advantage in your organisation:
  • Quality
  • Responsiveness to customers
  • Efficiency
  • Innovation

So, where did BB go wrong? BBM used to be THE preferred means of communications even a few short months ago... now everyone has an iPhone and/or Galaxy and if they have BB it is just because they have so many contacts on it. The main issues for the students seem to be decreasing quality, a total disregard of customer's concerns, lack of new models and lack of innovation (so yeah, everything!)

First, students point out that the camera is better with iPhone and Galaxy, service is unreliable, it crashes easily and is not "secure" and they break easier than before (remember, this is not scientific, but an almost straight retelling of what they told me).

RIM does not listen to customers, "Biggest problem is not responding to customer needs and wants and the same defects are in each new version of the Black Berry - like the battery!". Another student said that BB does not have a system that fully connects with their customers (now RIM, if you think you do have such a service, uhmmm, I do not think it is working).

Lack of efficient system to have new versions of the phone (and again with no improvements on the major issues).... They blame that you laid off all those engineers to try to save money a few years ago (yeah, I might have something to do with that opinion).

Finally, and the biggest concern was a lack of innovative apps such as instagram and google maps... and they said that iPhone apps are just better - BB apps tend to be boring.

So there you have it - words of wisdom from my at the cutting edge of consumer electronics students ... Also, a word of warning to other businesses that think they have people locked into their products - sorry, if they feel ignored they will move on to a company that does not ignore them...

However, all that being said, they do not think I should get an iPhone... it is much too complicated for me :)


  1. Nice simple synopsis Connie.. and it even rings true. Thanks for sharing

  2. Pun intended I am sure :) Thanks Jim!

  3. i loved reading this post and its So true the way we young adults think about what we need RIM is not listening to what we want and need in there product.

    What i wish is to have A phone that looks cute like an IPhone but some how has the keyboard of a blackberry and the innovation of both Galaxy and IPhone and the speed of a MAC book and the power camera of a Canon X_X

  4. Thank you :) Now, all we can hope for is for a phone company to develop it for us!