BlackBerry, the company that once dominated smart mobile devices, recently announced that it was finally discontinuing the major services that supported its phones. From January 4, phones will no longer be provided with provisioning services, which means they will gradually lose the ability to connect to networks, including cellular networks.
It may seem hard to imagine that you weren’t using a cell phone at the time, but BlackBerry once dominated the smartphone market. Its keyboard-based hardware was widely adopted in corporate settings, as the services it provided typically ran through BlackBerry servers, allowing for a high degree of security and control. One indication of its importance is that the early internal builds of Android looked like cheap BlackBerry knockoffs, rather than the cheap iPhone knockoffs that were eventually released.
Unlike the people who developed Android, Blackberry’s leadership was blinded by the popularity of the iPhone. It rejected the on-screen keyboard, and relied on its grip on corporate services to maintain its market. It took more than a year after the release of the iPhone for the company to come up with its own touch screen phone, and for a while its software remained an odd mix of old and new. Meanwhile, corporate users have fallen in love with their Apple and Android phones, and forced their IT departments to support them.
Blackberry eventually abandoned its phones, and began releasing Android versions before exiting the hardware business entirely (it now primarily provides corporate security services). The last version of BlackBerry OS was released in 2013, so the affected devices here are now extremely old. The promised period of support actually ended a year ago, so it has already delivered on its promises.
The impact of the end of support is detailed on a FAQ page hosted by the former device manufacturer. The main change is that BlackBerry will no longer send provisioning updates to these devices. Provisioning information provides details about how devices should establish connections with different types of networking equipment, including cellular and WiFi networks. As a result, at some uncertain point in the future, networking updates made by service providers will mean that BlackBerry devices can no longer connect. As a result, BlackBerry says its devices “will not be expected to function reliably, including data, phone calls, SMS, and 9-1-1 functionality.”
There are some software services that rely on a connection to a Blackberry server in order to function. So, if you rely on something like Blackberry World or Blackberry Link, they will stop working on the 4th.
The number of people affected by this is very less. Nevertheless, it serves as a clear marker of the end of what was once a very important technology.