The BlackBerry Classic is a new phone built to honor the legacy of the BlackBerry 9900, the early nineties Volvo of smartphones. It is not particularly attractive, moderately unwieldy, and possessed of a keyboard that mounting an insurgency against screen space. If there is one thing BlackBerry, which used to be called RIM and lose tons of money, has learned over the last decade, it’s that their core product fails to attract new users. Releasing a version of that product that doubles down on its shortcomings without making any attempt to make it more accessible to a broader audience is certainly a notable gambit. BlackBerry is falling back and shoring up it’s defenses.
“Fine,” the company is, in essence, saying, “We cede this landscape to Apple and Samsung, but we’ll save our homeland. You be South Africa and we’ll be Lesotho.”
A few years ago, the move would have been a strange gambit. Now it makes a lot of sense. BlackBerry is no longer in the consumer tech business in a traditional sense. They are not seeking out new users so much as indoctrinating the old ones. Are they preaching to the choir? Absolutely, but right now the choir contains all the people willing to listen. And it’s okay to have a niche market. For a long time, having a BlackBerry was a statement best interpreted as “I either work as a consultant, don’t understand how to buy a phone, or both.” With the Classic, BlackBerry is changing the statement considerably. Having one of these in your back pocket means one thing: That you like to use a BlackBerry and you don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. It’s punk rock, but in the most corporate way possible.
The hope that comes out of this is that similar companies, like Xerox and Rolodex, keep similar products, like fax machines and weirdly circular contact books, alive. Variety is – after all - the spice of office life.
Long live glorious Lesotho.