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Goodbye to Blackberry, the first smartphone symbol of the 2000s

Starting today, all of the brand's operating systems will stop working

Goodbye to Blackberry, the first smartphone symbol of the 2000s Starting today, all of the brand's operating systems will stop working

It is the end of an era. Starting today, the company will discontinue the BlackBerry OS 10 and 7.1 operating system, and all of its previous versions by disabling calls, messages and internet access. Blackberrys operating with Android will remain in operation, however, which will continue to remain operational as long as Google extends its support. The announcement had already been made in September 2020, coinciding with the announcement that the manufacturer of the physical devices, TLC Communication, would stop manufacturing smartphones for the brand. Nevertheless, the definitive disappearance of the proprietary system of the iconic smartphone of the early 2000s represents a definitive sunset of a myth of a bygone era, those early 2000s that fashion and pop culture have celebrated out of all proportion in recent years. The first Blackberry, introduced in 1999 with the historic 850 model, was the first real smartphone, designed for professionals, the first that could receive e-mails and access the Internet and that preceded by just under a decade the iPhone, whose first generation was presented in 2007 and which over the course of a decade supplanted it altogether. But above all, the Blackberry was the symbol of a middle era in which the old world of telephony was waning and that of the new digital culture had not yet been born. 

In addition to being the first de facto smartphone, the Blackberry was also the first technological product to represent a social status. Sure, in those days Kanye West used his flip phone and old Motorola mobiles experimented with cameras and toys – but it was the Blackberry that represented the new guard, the hyper-functional phone of professionals who wanted a phone that, to quote an anonymous Quora user in 2015 was  «functional, clean and no-nonsense». If the modern iPhone, with its bevy of imitations, is a symbol of the democratic accessibility of the new digital culture open from all sides, the Blackberry represented a subculture of its own: it did not own games, it was not meant for (at the time) frivolous things like social media, it had no entertainment features – it was a technological advance for those who worked,  the symbol of the businessmen, of the yuppies 2.0, of those who used their mobile phone to the highest degree of sophistication possible. In 2007 the revenue was three billion dollars. In 2011, it sold a record 50 million and, at the height of its success, the company controlled 50% of the American smartphone market and 20% of the world's. The BlackBerry Messenger service was the forerunner of WhatsApp: instant messages, encrypted, the ability to send multi-media files between different BlackBerry – a feature that soon defined a kind of elite club, distinct from the ability to communicate on a privileged platform, the first of its kind.

When the star of Steve Jobs loomed on the horizon, the Canadian company was not afraid: the iPhone did not seem ready to conquer the business world, yet in a very short time Apple's full touch screen conquered the market. BlackBerry responded with the BlackBerry Storm, which had little success due to the poor quality of the operating system – although the competitive prices of the classic BlackBerry kept the company alive, an ineffective innovation strategy (the PlayBook tablet did not have an app to send emails, for example) proved to be a terminal for the company after the release of the iPhone 4 that marked the clear victory of Apple whose sales were no longer exceeded. The lack of a dedicated App Store, the absence of features that would attract developers, the slowness of updating on features such as cameras marked the funeral chimes of the company. As we read on Business Insider: «In the last quarter of 2016, out of more than 432 million smartphones sold worldwide, only 207,900 were BlackBerry devices, which officially made RIM's smartphone market share 0%». From there it was all a long decline that led, four years later to the announcement of the end of production and, today, to the final burial.

Looking back, one can read the rise and fall of the brand as a lesson in the importance of continuous innovation – a necessity of which, with his furious and constant search for advancement, Steve Jobs had sensed the scope and that marked the success of his company even after his death. Today the BlackBerry will have lost every bit of its commercial importance, but it remains as the nostalgic testimony of an era of fundamental transition in the evolution of digital culture, the proverbial missing link of the technological evolution that began with the pagers of the 80s and of which, still in 2022, we can not see the end.