A few years ago, my wife was in college and was doing some research on Harley Davidson. I forget how she got stuck researching them instead of a company she might actually be interested in, but she did discover some interesting things about them. The most interesting, and distressing, thing she found was that the average age of a Harley Davidson customer was going up by almost exactly 1 year every year. In other words, Harley Davidson’s customers this year are almost all the same customers they had last year and the year before. They’re not drawing in new people.
While that not be terrible for them yet, it is something that is going to bite them in the ass one of these days. Any company that’s not drawing in new, young customers is doomed to fail. It’s not a place you want to be.
I bring this up because I saw that Blackberry released the Blackberry Classic over the past week. I immediately thought of that Harley Davidson study.
Blackberry is so obviously a company in decline. They missed the boat on modern smartphones to Apple and Google. Hell, I bet most people would take a Windows Phone before they would use a Blackberry these days. They still have their fans, but that audience isn’t growing, and it certainly isn’t drawing in young people. Blackberry made the Blackberry Classic to appeal to people who miss the “good old days” of smartphones before they got so damn complicated.
The thing is, even those people who liked Blackberries or even still like them is that they would be better suited with an iPhone or good Android phone. I think the physical keyboard argument is out the window at this point. Young people who grew up with touch screen smartphones are incredibly quick with digital keyboards. And if you don’t love the stock keyboard on your phone, there are solutions like Nintype that allow you to type insanely quickly and in new ways that have not been possible with physical buttons.
If you look at the productivity side, it’s even worse for Blackberry. Even on a platform as locked down as iOS, you have amazing productivity tools like Workflow that is an incredibly powerful scripting program that lets you do an infinite number of cool things with your phone. You have Drafts that is a notepad and a text-based launcher bundled into one. There’s Transmit that lets you remotely connect to a manage your servers from your phone. And there are countless other tools built for making things that used to be hard very easy from your phone.
All this is a means to say that Blackberry releasing a product called the “Classic” tells me they have given up on trying to get new people to buy into their products. They are going to try to hold onto what slim bit of the cell phone market they have left, and ride them out as long as they can. It will probably work for a few years, but I think we can more confidently say than ever that we’re never going to have a Blackberry renaissance. It’s game over, and they’re going to run out the clock.