SAN FRANCISCO (USATODAY.com) - You have to give BlackBerry credit for making one last go of it in the hand-held device market, one that the company helped pioneer when it was known as Research in Motion.
The Canadian company's most recent products were late with key features compared to Apple and Android offerings, but they were enough at least to make the z10 BlackBerry a legitimate smartphone -- and propel its shares 40% in the first three months of this year.
Let's hope some of the 4,500 people to be laid off by BlackBerry were smart investors who sold into that stock surge, before news of the layoffs started hewing off large amounts of the company's market value.
As we said in a column here in March, the company's new smartphone and tablet likely wouldn't be enough to turn around its momentum.
That wasn't a bold call, of course, given that the one-time leader in the market for a combination mobile phone/email device had seen its market share shrink to niche status.
But it's worth remembering why the company failed.
BlackBerry's missteps went beyond one that has been the death of many makers of mobile devices: failing to keep up with fickle consumer tastes, which are always following the latest hardware innovations.
That same mistake felled much larger companies than BlackBerry, including Nokia and Motorola, which each were sold for a fraction of their once-mighty worth, to Microsoft and Google, respectively.
When it was still called Research in Motion, BlackBerry failed to see the key change in its market: the emergence of software capability -- trumping hardware features -- as the driver of consumer handheld purchases.
When it led the smartphone market almost a decade ago, BlackBerry was sold primarily to corporate customers who liked its reliability and security - and the fact that if there were a problem, the user usually had a corporate IT service guy to fix it.
But the time is long gone when we bring our smartphones to an IT department to fix, or use them mostly to read business emails.
The reason consumers buy the devices now is for what they can do with the hundreds of thousands of apps that are written for them, which means much of their use is for pleasure, not business.
Earlier this year, BlackBerry was touting the fact that consumers had access to 100,000 apps that ran on its operating system.
Yet as we told you in that previous column, that was a small fraction of the software applications being written for Apple and Android phones by third-party developers.
That difference in what you couldn't do on a BlackBerry that you can do on other devices sealed the company's fate.
It's also a reminder of how difficult a time the new Microsoft-Nokia combination is going to have competing with the market leaders, and what their primary task should be.
What kind of software capabilities a consumer can add to a smartphone after buying it is now much more important than the features packed into the phone by its maker.
In the end, there wasn't enough for consumers to do on a BlackBerry.