The rise and fall of BlackBerry – and why director thinks world may be ready for its return

With the newest iPhone now in folks’s arms and Google’s annual Android flagship not far behind, it is a pertinent time to launch a movie concerning the as soon as iconic system that paved the way in which for each.

BlackBerry hasn’t appeared alongside them on store cabinets for years, and any remaining gadgets have been successfully killed off final January when the corporate behind them ceased help.

It was an undignified finish for a gadget that modified the world, one which turned not simply ubiquitous with boardrooms and places of work (together with a sure oval-shaped one), however a real vogue assertion.

Thrusting it again into the highlight in 2023 is director Matt Johnson, who hails not removed from BlackBerry’s Ontario HQ.

And but, in opposition to all odds, he says he has no historical past with the world’s first smartphone in any respect.

“The timeline of the product was one of the main things I was interested in,” the 37-year-old says.

“A movie concerning the late 90s/early 2000s shift from a extra analogue world to a extra digital world.

“That’s when I was quite young and a great opportunity to explore that cultural space, all where I grew up.”

Research In Motion was primarily based in Waterloo, Ontario

‘Hacker-style’ nerds who modified the world

BlackBerry (the movie, not the product) picks up in 1996 at tech agency Research In Motion.

At the time, its ragtag crew of engineers are unaware they’re engaged on maybe their nation’s most well-known export since maple syrup.

Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and pal Douglas Fregin (Johnson) suspect their “PocketLink” concept for a telephone that does e mail is nice, however lack the enterprise sense to show idea into actuality.

Mike Lazaridis, President and co-chief executive officer of Research in Motion (RIM), waits to speak at the Empire Club of Canada luncheon in Toronto March 2, 2006. Lazaridis stated in his speech that RIM is still keen to resolve a bitter patent dispute with NTP Inc. and avoid an injunction that would shut its U.S. BlackBerry service. REUTERS/Mike Cassese
BlackBerry’s president Mike Lazaridis and (under) within the movie, performed by Jay Baruchel

Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazaridis. Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment
Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment

Johnson says they have been desirous about fixing sensible issues, however had “no vision of a cultural revolution”.

Enter the ruthless and opportunistic Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), who sees sufficient potential within the pitch to brute pressure his method into changing into co-CEO and arrange a pitch with the US telecoms large that may turn out to be Verizon.

Research in Motion Ltd. Chairman and Co-CEO Balsillie reacts during his speech at Fortune Global Forum in Beijing. Research in Motion Ltd. Chairman and Co-CEO James L.Balsillie reacts during his speech at the last day of Fortune Global Forum in Beijing May 18, 2005. The forum which attracted more than 800 participants, including CEOs, chairpersons and presidents of Global 500 firms and domestic enterprises, top government officials and renowned scholars, to brainstorm in the Chinese capital wil
BlackBerry’s co-CEO Jim Balsillie and (under) Glenn Howerton

Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie. Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment
Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment

The movie, primarily based on the e-book Losing The Signal, takes some liberties with the BlackBerry story – and the actual gamers concerned have stated some portrayals are nearer to satire.

Balsillie’s depicted as a hilariously foul-mouthed demon of the boardroom, whereas Lazaridis and Fregin lead a workforce of “almost hacker-style” nerds who love video video games and workplace movie nights.

What the movie undoubtedly nails is the BlackBerry model’s ascendancy to stardom.

The film presents the RIM team as a ragtag crew. Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment
The movie presents the RIM workforce as a ragtag crew, together with Lazaridis (left) and Fregin (in headband). Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment

Cracking the market

The first system in 1999 had e mail and two-way paging, with a keyboard and modest monochrome show.

By 2002, calls, texts, and web looking have been options of an more and more in style product with enterprise sorts.

But the game-changing launch of BlackBerry Messenger in 2005 took it actually mainstream, bringing WhatsApp-style encrypted messaging we now all take with no consideration.

The world’s habit to typing on the go noticed “CrackBerry” named Webster’s Dictionary’s phrase of 2006.

It was the telephone of alternative for hundreds of thousands of individuals, endorsed by celebrities and even the US president.

At its peak, BlackBerry managed virtually half of the worldwide smartphone market.

Writer/Actor Larry David (L) has a look at director Spike Lee's blackberry phone as they sit courtside at Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference final basketball playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets in Los Angeles, May 19, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES ENTERTAINMENT SPORT BASKETBALL)
U.S. President Barack Obama uses a Blackberry device as he makes his way toward the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, January 29, 2009. Obama was allowed to keep the Blackberry after security modifications were made. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)
Anyone who’s anybody needed a BlackBerry

Apple makes its transfer

But 2007 heralded the iPhone – and the world can be about to vary yet again.

Steve Jobs ruthlessly mocked the BlackBerry’s reliance on a keyboard through the grand unveiling, as observers swooned over the massive multitouch show in his hand.

For many analysts, it marked the start of the top for BlackBerry.

Pic: AP
Steve Jobs unveils the iPhone. Pic: AP

For Johnson, it wasn’t essentially the iPhone itself that killed the BlackBerry – however its creators’ response to it.

It noticed the corporate rapidly assemble a Frankenstein-like competitor which tried to mix a touchscreen with the satisfying clicks of a bodily keyboard.

“It’s a keyboard… on a screen… on a keyboard,” is how Baruchel’s Lazaridis pitches it to his engineers, tragically unconvincingly.

The ensuing BlackBerry Storm, launched in 2008, was a catastrophe.

Issues with the brand new touchscreen, which had one monumental button beneath, noticed Verizon have to switch all a million gadgets it offered and declare $500m in losses.

A Research In Motion BlackBerry Storm is pictured in New York, November 20, 2008. Verizon Wireless is betting on the new BlackBerry Storm for the all-important holiday season, hoping the highly anticipated smartphone can compete against the iPhone offered by rival wireless provider AT&T Inc. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES)
The BlackBerry Storm was a direct try and money in on the joy across the iPhone

‘How do you do, fellow children?’

It put the Canadian firm on the again foot, and left its executives grappling with an identification disaster as Apple’s trendsetter went from power to power.

BlackBerry nonetheless had its loyal customers, with one Barack Obama amongst these fortunately utilizing them for years after.

The firm even welcomed Queen Elizabeth II for a go to to its headquarters in 2010.

But by then it was clear the corporate’s route had turn out to be muddled, and the plenty and telephone carriers have been batting their eyelids within the iPhone’s route.

BlackBerry had gone from standing image to “how do you do, fellow kids?” within the blink of an eye fixed

Britain's Queen Elizabeth tours Research in Motion, maker of the handheld device Blackberry, in Kitchener, Ontario July 5, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill (CANADA - Tags: SCI TECH ROYALS BUSINESS)
‘How does one textual content Philip?’

Blind revolutionaries

Johnson sees BlackBerry’s downfall as a cautionary story, but in addition one thing of a tragic one.

“They set up the scaffolding for a revolution, but then didn’t realise one was about to happen,” he says.

“It wasn’t that the iPhone was just a better product,” says Johnson.

“It had more to do with the vision of a company like Apple compared to Reality In Motion.

“People say they’re a part of the ‘Apple ecosystem’ – the model means greater than the merchandise.

“BlackBerry just did not do that and weren’t interested in that.

“And by the top, these unique engineers find yourself so disillusioned and alienated from the factor they constructed, I do not suppose they even imagine they constructed it.”

The moment the iPhone is announced as portrayed in the film. Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment
The second the iPhone is introduced as portrayed within the movie. Pic: National Amusements/Piece Of Magic Entertainment

BlackBerry saved chipping away at iPhone-style touchscreen gadgets, however discovered itself swimming in opposition to a tide made even stronger by the recognition of Android.

In 2016, the agency gave up making telephones and transitioned to being a software program safety enterprise, licensing out the BlackBerry identify for different producers to provide it a shot.

The final hurrah was 2018’s BlackBerry KEY2 LE from China’s TCL, an awkwardly assembled jack of all trades that unceremoniously caught a keyboard on the foot of a touchscreen.

It may hardly have been additional away from Lazaridis’s unique “texts, calls, email” imaginative and prescient for a telephone, one which Johnson thinks would possibly but make a big return.

Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive of Research In Motion (RIM), holds the new Blackberry Bold handset during its launch in Mumbai September 18, 2008. Research in Motion Ltd will add new carriers in fast-growing emerging markets, and does not yet see an adverse impact from a widening global financial crisis, Balsillie said on Thursday. REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe(INDIA)
It was the longer term as soon as…

Nostalgia-driven “dumb phones” from Nokia have seen a resurgence as customers search a detox from social media, whereas newcomers just like the Light Phone proudly boast of providing nothing however texts and calls.

“I think if BlackBerry had reverted to that philosophy, they might’ve found success,” he says.

What’s sure is that no firm can afford to relaxation on its laurels within the fixed churn of Silicon Valley.

The trendy smartphone could also be missing for innovation, however as BlackBerry and that iPhone each proved, the longer term can emerge very quickly in any respect.

BlackBerry releases in UK and Irish cinemas on 6 October.