Fade to Black(Berry): 8 Years Covering the Rise and Fall of RIM

CIO.com's longtime BlackBerry beat reporter Al Sacco says goodbye to the company he intimately covered for more than eight years.

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Tue, October 08, 2013

CIO — This post has been a long time coming.

I started covering Research In Motion (RIM), now BlackBerry, for CIO.com in 2005. That was less than 10 years ago, but the world was a different place, especially when you're talking technology.


RIM HQ In Waterloo, Ontario with For Sale Sign

No iPhone. (GASP!) The cloud was just a thing in the sky. Bringing your own device to work was unheard of. IT and the business were like oil and water. And the BlackBerry was an advanced business tool, used almost exclusively by professionals. If you had one, you were "special," so much so that many BlackBerry users wore visible holsters on their belts, not out of function but to make sure everyone saw their brick-like devices.

Starting in 2007, I focused on BlackBerry almost exclusively, It was right around the time the company released its first consumer-friendly BlackBerry, the Pearl. In the following years, I attended all of the company's significant events and the majority of its product launches in cities across America. I interviewed an array of BlackBerry staffers, including product managers, VPs and CEOs in fancy suites on the highest floors of luxury hotels. I attended professional sporting events and concerts with many BlackBerry folks, some of whom remain friends to this day. I gained access to celebrity spokespeople and "futurists." I led sessions and spoke to crowds at BlackBerry World conferences. I studied the BlackBerry OS as closely as I've ever studied anything and mastered every in and every out. I ingratiated myself into the BlackBerry ecosystem and built relationships with BlackBerry partners of all kinds.

In the process, I pleased, pissed off and placated BlackBerry and its PR department in equal measure over the years. I made a name for myself in mobile, thanks largely to my coverage of the Canadian company.

Today, BlackBerry is on the brink of a major sale, and the company could be dismantled and sold for parts by the close of the year. Whatever the outcome, the future is bleak for BlackBerry.

Time to Say Goodbye to BlackBerry

For a long time, I tried to come up with reasons to stay positive and keep the faith in the company. But it's not my job to smother readers in blind loyalty - quite the contrary, really. It's clear that readers aren't as interested in BlackBerry, either; overall traffic to my stories has waned along with interest in the platform.

During the past year, I received so many emails, pitches and even suggestions from coworkers about writing my thoughts on what happened to BlackBerry, and why "BlackBerry is doomed," that I lost count. For the most part, I avoid these types of stories. Frankly, they're cliché, and I don't want to kick the company when it is down. I never pull punches when they are called for, but I also never throw sucker punches.

My colleague, CIO.com Senior Online Writer Tom Kaneshige, has been ribbing me for years about BlackBerry, asking when I'm finally going to admit that BlackBerry is "dead." In May 2010, we wrote companion pieces about the future of wireless. He suggested that BlackBerry was already dead, while I argued the company could still surprise a lot of people.

Well, Tom, you were right. And I was wrong.

This post is my official way of saying goodbye to the company, though I'm well aware that BlackBerry is still not "dead." I've unofficially moved away from BlackBerry coverage during the past couple of years, but I will continue to write about it when appropriate.

The following 20 stories are some of my favorite and most noteworthy pieces during the past eight years. They paint an interesting picture of both RIM/BlackBerry and my coverage of the company that paved the way for the modern smartphone and changed all of our lives.

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