Like who? I asked, hoping I might sweet-talk my way onto the list. It turns out it was the publisher and the company chairman.
That’s the moment I should have realized that BlackBerry’s maker, Research in Motion, was at risk of losing what was then its near-total dominance of a business smartphone market. Just three years later, its quarterly sales are down 40 percent, big profits have turned to losses and its shares are off 95 percent from its 2008 peak. The decline has been so steep that some analysts wonder whether Canadian-based RIM can survive.
Things aren’t much better for Finland-based Nokia, which, after 14 years, has lost its title as the world’s leading maker of mobile phones. Overall, its 40 percent global market share is now cut in half. Over the past 18 months, its stock price has dropped more than 70 percent, and the company was forced to lay off 10,000 workers.
It’s not that Nokia failed to anticipate the smartphone revolution. A decade before the iPhone was launched, its engineers had a prototype of a sleek handheld device with a color touch screen that would allow you to manage e-mail, locate a nearby restaurant, play a game or order shoes on the Web.
“We had it completely nailed,” Frank Nuovo, Nokia’s former chief engineer, told the Wall Street Journal.
But after spending $40 billion in research and development over a decade, Nokia has failed to turn its technology into competitive products fast enough to keep up with Apple and other rivals. As a result, its share of the smartphone market has fallen to 6 percent in just two years — a slide it hopes to reverse with a sleek new line of smartphones hastily unveiled this month.
A similar story of lost dominance can be found at the other end of the technology distribution chain. It was only a few years ago that Best Buy had knocked venerable national retailers such as Sears to the mat, crushed thousands of local appliance stores and driven big-box rivals such as Circuit City out of business. Nobody, it seemed, could beat Best Buy for price, selection and the service provided by its Geek Squad.
But almost overnight, the new technology that Best Buy was so good at selling suddenly became the instruments of its own undoing. It allowed once-loyal customers to see and touch the products on its shelves before buying them at a lower price from Amazon and other online retailers who didn’t have to pay for sales staff and showrooms or even collect sales taxes. And it allowed customers to download their music, their movies and their games online rather than picking them up at Best Buy.