Blackberry Classic Goes Back to Go Forward

by Matt Klassen on October 30, 2014

Still struggling to regain traction in today’s mobile market Blackberry has decided to navigate a bold new course, going back to go forwards. To that end, yesterday Blackberry CEO John Chen explained the firm’s reasoning behind its latest mobile offering, and I’ll use the word “latest” generously, as the aptly named Blackberry Classic Q20 is definitely something we’ve seen before.

Describing the new Classic as a Bold 9900 with “a little more power,” it’s clear Blackberry is doing more than reviving the retro look of its more popular smartphones of the past, but actually slapping a new label on a slightly upgraded version of its old phones and sending them back to market. As MobileSyrup’s Douglas Soltys writes, “If leaked specs are to be believed, the Classic Q20 features a two year old processor to go with its three year old design, as the Classic resurrects the navigation keys and trackpad that were dropped with the company’s push to BlackBerry 10.”

For those now left scratching their heads about Blackberry’s latest retro product development, Chen offered an explanation in an open letter published earlier this week, stating that the release of the Classic is part of Blackberry’s plan to produce more “unconventional” devices,” much like the square-shaped Passport, and that by offering a pre-Blackberry 10 retro smartphone the company is hoping to finally upgrade those users who are still clinging to their legacy Blackberry devices.

It’s clear that under John Chen’s leadership Blackberry is trying to revive the glory days of the company, offering products that don’t “break the mold,” as Chen states, but instead offer users that comfortable Blackberry feel in a slightly upgraded device. While it may seem counter-intuitive in today’s market to release a phone that, by all accounts, is both antiquated and obsolete, there are some merits to Chen’s decision. Not only does it help the company save money on development costs, but by upgrading a previous model it allows to company to retain its connection to its dedicated, albeit dwindling, user base.

In fact, consider the development of the Blackberry Classic as a tactical retreat, yet another acknowledgement that the company’s attempts at offering cutting edge mobile technology to rival Apple and Android have failed miserably, and that Blackberry’s only hope at resurrection is finding its niche and sticking to it.

But rather than frame the development of the Blackberry Classic in this way, Chen is trying to convince the world that this is all part of his firm’s innovative forward-thinking new path. “Innovation is not about blowing up what works to make something new – it’s about taking what works and making it better,” he said in his open letter. Unfortunately the only thing about this statement is that it’s not true. Innovation, by definition, is a new idea or a new direction, repackaging a slightly upgraded version of something you’ve done before isn’t that, its incremental improvement, an iteration, an upgrade. Although looking at Apple, perhaps that’s what innovation now means in today’s mobile market.

The problem for Blackberry, of course, is that it has these sorts of incremental iteration product upgrades to thank for its current predicament, as it was a decade of doing the same thing that ultimately forced Blackberry to the brink of disaster, watching competitors innovate and advance the mobile market well beyond the company’s initially popular products. Will a return to the Blackberry of old really be the path to renewed success for this company? I, for one, highly doubt it.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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