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黑莓手机时代是如何终结的?
How the BlackBerry phone era came to an end

2020-9-29 17:10| 发布者: 凡心| 查看: 418| 评论: 0

摘要: The BlackBerry phone, whose tactile keyboard once made it the ultimate business gadget no self-respecting chief executive could be without, has been consigned to history by its maker.Devotees - from t ...
How the BlackBerry phone era came to an end
The BlackBerry phone, whose tactile keyboard once made it the ultimate business gadget no self-respecting chief executive could be without, has been consigned to history by its maker.

Devotees - from the fictional Martin Lukes to the ultimate power user President Obama - have assumed the “prayer position” and risked thumb strains to bang out emails on its coveted keyboard over the years, but on Wednesday, its Canadian maker finally hung up on its hardware division, after failing to rekindle the wild success of its early days.

Although phones with a BlackBerry badge will continue to be sold in markets like Indonesia, and possibly China and India, they will not be made or designed by the company that bears its name.

In effect, the BlackBerry era is over. The days when legions of “CrackBerry” addicts wandered through offices with their phone jutting out of a holster on their hip while complaining about ‘BlackBerry Thumb’ from the frenetic typing of emails, are long gone. The phone, which at the turn of the century was as much of a corporate status symbol as a shiny new Rolex or a Mont Blanc pen, lost its grip on the office as more iPhones and iPads started appearing on desks five years ago, and only the diehards have persevered.

It has been death by a thousand cuts for the phone business under chief executive John Chen, who has slowly unwound the company’s attempts to stay relevant in the handset market.

Waterloo, Ontario is now a hotbed of start-ups and a thriving technology industry, but that was far from the case in 1984, when Research In Motion was founded by two engineering students, Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin. The tiny company started as a wireless data transmission business. By the 1990s it was making point-of-sale terminals and in 1996, launched the Inter@ctive Pager, which took it into competition with Motorola, then the giant of the mobile phone sector. The move into pagers, an unloved technology of yesteryear, paved the way for a sidestep into the growing handset market and RIM’s success anticipated the data-hungry habits of the modern smartphone user.

In 1998, RIM had developed a handheld device ideal for emailing, which embedded a tiny Qwerty keyboard. It was set to be called the PocketLink or MegaMail, but the technology sector’s love of fruit-based branding claimed another hit when Lexicon Branding struck on the idea that the tiny keys felt like drupelets, the pockmarks on the skin of berry fruit. Strawberry was deemed too slow sounding for a technology brand and the name BlackBerry was born.

The ability to email on the move caught fire and transformed RIM into a major player in the electronics market. Thumb-wheels for scrolling were added, the screens got bigger and soon a phone was added to the device, initially one that could only be used with an external headset. By the time the BlackBerry 6210 was issued in 2002, the device had become a must-have tool not only for business people but also consumers that loved the keyboard. A legion of “Crackberry” addicts emerged.

Nokia and Microsoft both tried to match BlackBerry’s dominance in the enterprise market, but the Canadian company was also able to trade off its speed, reliability and security as it ran its own software and servers. By the time that the BlackBerry Pearl, Curve and Bold models started selling by the millions, the company found itself as an unlikely star in the teenage market, with young users flocking to use its secure messaging product in a pre-WhatsApp and Snapchat era. Many bought those models and never bothered tapping in a phone number.

Mr Lazaridis and his co-chief executive Jim Balsillie believed the hype and would enter the stage at trade shows to the blaring tunes of the Black Eyed Peas, something unthinkable when it was solely focused on its core market of business users. A botched launch into the tablet market followed, as sales started to stutter and the longstanding management team moved aside in 2012.

Too much had been riding on the 2012 launch of BlackBerry 10, a new software platform and phone series, that was meant to go head-to-head with the latest iPhones and Android handsets. Hubris was evident as senior executives boasted that it had 80m subscribers and nothing to worry about. The software flopped, the phones flopped and BlackBerry — which dropped the RIM name during this period — never recovered, as its subscriber base rapidly eroded.

Mr Chen has thrown a huge amount of effort into reviving its fortunes in the corporate market with the giant square Passport phone — designed for architects and spreadsheet lovers — at least capturing the attention. He also released Android-based handsets to broaden its appeal and added a nostalgic tinge to the product line with the Classic model that recreated the Bold design.

It proved too little, too late and BlackBerry now joins the likes of Palm and Psion in the legacy brand lounge for tech hardware. Yet like Nokia, the name BlackBerry will continue to resonate.

黑莓(BlackBerry)手机制造者让黑莓手机成为了历史。它的触感键盘一度让所有自视甚高的首席执行官把黑莓作为必不可少的终极商业设备。

从虚构的小说人物马丁?卢克斯(Martin Lukes)到终极权力用户奥巴马总统等的拥趸曾经对黑莓“顶礼膜拜”,多年来冒着拇指痉挛的风险在梦寐以求的键盘上赶写着邮件,但在本周三,这家加拿大制造商在未能再创早年的火爆之后,最终关停了硬件部门。

尽管带有黑莓标识的手机将继续在印尼(可能还有中国和印度)市场销售,但不会由黑莓公司制造或设计。

实际上,黑莓时代已经结束。曾几何时,许多“瘾莓们”后腰上挎着手机套别着黑莓手机在办公室里走来走去,同时抱怨疯狂赶写邮件造成的“黑莓拇指”。这个时代早已一去不复返了。黑莓手机在本世纪初曾和崭新的劳力士(Rolex)手表或万宝龙(Montblanc)钢笔一样是企业地位的象征,但随着5年前更多的iPhone和iPad出现在了办公桌上,如今它在办公室里已经失势了,只有铁杆用户还在坚持用黑莓。

在首席执行官程守宗(John Chen)的领导下,黑莓手机业务被“凌迟处死”——程逐渐地让黑莓公司离开手机硬件市场。

安大略省滑铁卢市如今是初创企业的温床,有着蓬勃发展的科技产业,但1984年的时候绝非如此,当时两位工程专业学生迈克?拉扎里迪斯(Mike Lazaridis)和道格拉斯?弗雷金(Douglas Fregin)创立了RIM公司(Research in Motion)。这家小公司一开始从事无线数据传输业务。到上世纪90年代,它转而制造销售终端机,并在1996年推出了Inter@ctive Pager,从而与当时的移动电话巨头摩托罗拉(Motorola)展开了竞争。进军曾遭受冷落的传呼机领域为公司横跨一步迈进蒸蒸日上的手持设备市场铺平了道路,在现代智能手机用户形成渴求数据的习惯之前,RIM就已取得了成功。

1998年,RIM开发了一款非常适合写电子邮件的手持设备,嵌入了小巧的Qwerty键盘。该公司本来准备将它称为PocketLink或者MegaMail,但科技行业喜欢用水果给品牌命名,当时品牌推广公司Lexicon Branding想到这些按键就像莓类水果表面密布的细小颗粒。对一个科技品牌来说,草莓(Strawberry)念起来不太顺口,于是黑莓(BlackBerry)之名诞生了。

外出也能发邮件这项功能让黑莓火了起来,并使得RIM成为电子产品市场上的一个主要参与者。黑莓设备又增加了拇指轮滚动功能,屏幕越来越大,很快又加了电话功能——最初只能利用外部耳机。到2002年推出黑莓6210的时候,它已经不仅仅是商务人士的必备工具,而且还是喜爱全键盘的消费者的必备工具。成群的“瘾莓”出现了。

诺基亚(Nokia)和微软(Microsoft)都曾试图争夺黑莓在企业市场的主导地位,但这家加拿大公司在运行自己的软件和服务器时还能利用其速度、可靠性和安全性这些优势。到黑莓的Pearl、Curve和Bold等机型开始以百万计的数量热卖时,该公司发现自己已成为十几岁年轻人市场上一颗不可思议的明星,在WhatsApp和Snapchat时代来临之前,年轻用户纷纷使用黑莓的安全短信产品。很多人购买了这些机型,但从不拨打电话号码。

拉扎里迪斯及其联席首席执行官吉姆?贝尔斯利(Jim Balsillie)相信宣传,他们会在黑眼豆豆乐队(Black Eyed Peas)喧闹的音乐声中走进商业展会的舞台——在黑莓专注于核心的企业用户市场的时候,这种事是不可想象的。后来黑莓在进军平板市场时告败,销售额开始萎缩,长期管理团队在2012年经历变动。

黑莓把太多的赌注押在2012年黑莓10的推出,这是一个新的软件平台和手机系列,本意是要与最新款的iPhone和安卓手机一决雌雄的。骄傲自满的情绪显露无遗,黑莓高管们夸耀称,自己拥有8000万用户,什么都不用担心。结果软件失败了,手机也失败了,黑莓(在此期间放弃了RIM的名字)再也没有恢复过来,其用户基础迅速萎缩。

程守宗采取大量措施以求重振黑莓在企业市场的雄风,至少也要吸引目光。他推出了方屏大尺寸手机Passport,这款手机专为建筑师和制表爱好者设计。他还发布了搭载安卓系统(Android)的手机以求增强其产品吸引力,并给产品增加了一丝怀旧色彩,Classic机型再现了Bold机型的设计。

事实证明,这些努力作用太小了,也太迟了,黑莓现在已加入Palm和Psion之列,成为科技硬件领域的历史老品牌。然而,与诺基亚一样,黑莓这个名字仍将继续回响。

译者/何黎


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