Leapfrogged Technologies, with a Few Traits Some Value, Often Persist in Small Numbers

(p. A1) Magnus Jern was sitting around with some programmers at Google headquarters when he remembered he needed to answer an email. But when he pulled out his phone and started tapping, the room grew silent.

“What is that?” one woman asked.

The reaction was no surprise to Mr. Jern, part of a die-hard band devoted to a device that was once a status symbol, then was ubiquitous, and now is almost an endangered species: the BlackBerry.

. . .

“There was agreement that (p. A10) for typing, in particular, it’s a better device,” says Mr. Jern, who works in Barcelona, Spain, for consulting firm Digital Management LLC. He also has an iPhone but finds its screen keyboard slow and frustrating. “For email and calendar, the two basic tasks, BlackBerry is the strongest.”

The BlackBerry began life as a text pager, created in 1996 by Canadian company Research in Motion Ltd. The founders made technical breakthroughs that popularized world-wide phone texting and mobile email. Its keyboard buttons looked a little like the kernels in a blackberry, hence the name.

It transformed the way people worked. Before, “when you got off an airplane, the first thing you did was head to a pay phone with a pile of quarters and stand there for 20 minutes with a broken pencil in your hand writing down all of your messages,” says Hugh MacKinnon, chairman of Canadian law firm Bennett Jones LLP . “Then, all of a sudden you had a BlackBerry, and all of your messages, all your voice mails, were right there in your hand.”

But in 2007 Apple Inc. introduced the iPhone, and Android smartphones, also with touch screens, came soon after. Unlike BlackBerry with its office focus, they aimed at the mass market. Today BlackBerry has a global smartphone market share of less than 1%.

. . .

BlackBerrys, says Andrew Stivelman, a technical writer in Toronto, are “built like a tank.”

For the full story, see:

Vipal Monga and Kim Mackrael. “BlackBerry Loyalists Endure Odd Looks and Questions.” The New York Times (Saturday, March 17, 2018): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 16, 2018, and has the title “What’s That Thing You’re Sending an Email With? Um, It’s a BlackBerry.”)

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