WASHINGTON – On a warm, bright Thursday morning, Jim Green sits on a park bench in Lafayette Square, intently poking and prodding his iPhone screen, engrossed in an intense game of “Angry Birds.”
For Green, a St. Mary’s County native working as an engineer in Washington, the popular iPhone game affords him the opportunity to temporarily escape the chaos of the city. He has a BlackBerry that he uses for business, but it is buried in his bag.
“The iPhone is, by far, a lot easier to use and you can do a lot more with it,” Green said.
While many corporations continue to flock to BlackBerry for its security features, many consumers have chosen flashier competitors, including Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, which boast touch screens, sparkling graphics and innovative applications.
Despite introducing the first smart phone in 1999, Research in Motion — the company that produces Blackberry — has been plagued by slashed profits and lagging popularity in the past year as users transition to Android and iPhone devices.
Revenue in the fourth quarter dropped to $4.2 billion, down 19 percent from the third quarter, according to a March 29 news release from the company. Shipments of the phone also fell to 11.1 million, a 21 percent drop, and the company’s founders and CEOs, Jim Balsille and Mike Lazaridis, left the company in late January.
These events prompted RIM to announce March 29 that it would leave the consumer market and instead focus on its business and enterprise offerings, which include a widely respected security and encryption system. An April 11 study by Enterprise Readiness of Consumer Platforms rated Blackberry as the most secure mobile phone.
Despite the recent dip in revenue, new CEO Thorston Heins aims to restore its reputation as a smartphone powerhouse by focusing on the company’s strengths, he said.
“If we continue doing well what we’re doing, I see no problems in us being in the top three players worldwide,” Heins said in a video RIM posted on its YouTube account. “We need to be out, we need to be constantly communicating with our customers, with our audience, telling them about Blackberry.”
But the possibility of Blackberry recovering from such dismal losses is nearly impossible, according to Anil Doradia, an analyst with William Blair & Co.
“If history teaches us any lessons, I can’t think of any company that has recovered from such strategic errors,” Doradia said. “The likelihood of that happening is remote.”
Although the phone reached widespread appeal “in times and pockets across the globe” he said, the company is solely an enterprise company and should return to its roots.
“Their demise was largely driven by their unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the consumer world,” Doradia said. “RIM’s loss is Apple or Google’s gain.”
With the unveiling of the iPhone and Android in 2007, many consumers, including Dupont Circle resident Alexandra Wolff, said they bought the smartphone purely for its trusted applications.
“I got it just for the Google Maps,” said Wolff, who bought the phone in November. “I was living in New York City at the time and didn’t know it very well. … I knew I wanted the iPhone; I didn’t even compare prices.”
Others, such as Silver Spring native Katie Wiggins, said they embraced new options after realizing their Blackberries had become antiquated.
“The phone never worked. …It took about four minutes to restart, which I had to do often because of how often it froze,” said Wiggins, who switched to an iPhone in November. “Blackberries are just an old technology.”
But this technology still has its fans — Woodbridge resident Victoria Bayer said that while she is required to carry a BlackBerry at her job as a legal records manager at a law firm, she still enjoys using it.
“I like the BlackBerry,” she said. “I find it easy to use. … The BlackBerry keeps me in touch with the office.”