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Once Upon a Time, We All Wanted A Blackberry. Remember?



The employer-given Blackberry was the ultimate status symbol, a validation that you were essential to your workplace

Used BlackBerry smartphones, produced by BlackBerry Ltd., in London, on Sept. 24, 2013.

I resisted getting my first mobile phone for quite some time—being reachable anywhere, anytime seemed a dubious luxury—but almost as soon as I caved I was once again made to feel technologically behind.

That’s because a few weeks after I started carrying around my little Nokia phone, sometime around the turn of the millennium, the top editors at the New York Times, where I worked at the time, were discreetly given Blackberries by company IT. Suddenly, my bosses had this magical ability to access their email on the run, in the palm of their hands, a power they would wield with their thumb as they turned the email machine’s iconic side wheel. Supposedly, they could instantly get all their email on this device without even being plugged into the Internet, even from across the Atlantic.

But how? None of it made any sense.

I have been thinking of those early Blackberry days in recent weeks, as the Canadian maker of the device has acknowledged it is in dire straits—most recently announcing that it will be going private and that it must take a $1 billion write-off because its new models aren’t selling. How quickly the fates can turn! As recently as 2009, Fortune proclaimed Blackberry (then called Research in Motion) the world’s fastest-growing company, and in 2006 the Merriam-Webster Dictionary had enshrined “Crackberry” as the new word of the year.

Smartphones have become so ubiquitous, it is easy to forget how stunningly disruptive the arrival of the Blackberry—technically a pager before later models became phones—really was. I have worked in a number of different jobs offering different types of perks, but I have never seen a more sought-after workplace perk than a Blackberry. For much of the first decade of the century, across a wide range of white-collar industries, an employer-issued Blackberry was the ultimate status symbol, the ultimate validator that you were essential to the enterprise. The very fact that this latest technological marvel was typically obtained from work—unlike most other must-have tech marvels—gave it even more cachet, although it’s also one factor that ultimately contributed to its downfall.

(MORE: The Fatal Mistake That Doomed Blackberry)

The gradual spread of Blackberries across the land also created a new type of high-class addiction for Type-A achievers—hence the “Crackberry.” In those early years, investment bankers, media executives, lawyers, celebrities, and top political figures (Al Gore was an early adopter, receiving his 2000 election-day results on his BB) could commiserate among themselves about the burdens that came with such responsibility—their inability ever to shut off work and live in the moment. Whining about such “essential person” problems became a badge of honor. And lest anyone be confused about where you stood if you’d been issued one of these devices, the emails you typed on its tiny keyboard would read “Sent from my Blackberry.” Take that.

When Blackberries first made their appearance, I knew I wasn’t worthy. But as they began their slow spread across organizations, I realized I should probably resist getting one for as long as possible, for the same reason I’ve never tried crack or many other types of drugs: I might really like it and not be able to draw boundaries. And so for a couple years I considered it a blessing to be able to detach from email, figuring that in a real emergency someone could call my “dumb” Nokia, which had gone from cutting-edge extravagance to outdated utility in a remarkably short amount of time.

It was in 2005 that I threw in the towel and accepted my first Blackberry from an employer. It was inevitable as a work matter, given the undeniable convenience of being accessible at all times, not just to talk but to review long texts. But I have to admit there was also an element of personal vanity that led me to cave. It irked me to get emails “Sent from my Blackberry” from one too many people who didn’t seem more deserving of such a marvel. I recall one work lunch in Los Angeles with a neurotic political operator who couldn’t stop checking her Blackberry, halfheartedly apologizing about how important all those emails were. For my part, all I could do was stare at my Nokia, which never rang, wondering if I was somehow less important.

Sure enough, as soon as I got my own Blackberry, I became insufferably distracted to anyone before me, even as I became hyper-attentive to folks reaching out beyond the ether.  We’re now accustomed to the social critique that we’ve all disengaged from our immediate surroundings on account of being hijacked by our hand-held screens, but early on the only screen that was doing that was the Blackberry’s. And  there were few things as sweet as the device’s vibrations, that purring of connectivity, that I’d feel on those rare occasions when I would behave and put my BB in my pocket during a meeting

Apple’s iPhone launched in 2007, and that along with a subsequent generation of Google Android-powered phones would spell doom for Blackberry. It would change culture too. Smartphones are now so commonplace that it’s the people who are not immediately reachable via email who seem to have the elitist affectation, or at least lack the proper social graces.

Today, Blackberry is being eulogized as yet another case study of a dominant technology overtaken by competitors, another case of an “innovator’s dilemma,” the general rule that a company that does one thing well and dominates that market has a vested interest in protecting that turf and little incentive to consider that consumer demand, needs and taste may shift in other directions.

Once we look for more specific takeaways from Blackberry’s decline, though, the lessons become elusive.  (And I don’t mean to suggest the company is dead, especially since it still retains a firm grip on government business thanks to its more secure platform.)  Perhaps one easy one is that basing your high-flying enterprise in a town called Waterloo (the company’s Canadian hometown) is asking for trouble. But on the whole, it’s hard not to sympathize with Blackberry.  This is not your classic “What were they thinking??” case of sluggishness.

Instead, it seems more like Blackberry had the bad luck to face two stunningly rapid and surprising cultural shifts.

The first was the collapse of the wall between our personal and work spheres. Blackberry had achieved success as a workplace essential. Corporate IT departments were the devices’ most important customers—enthralled with the security of the system and how it could synch with any number of corporate networks. This was a serious business tool acquired, assigned, and administered by employers.  The iPhone, when it first came out, was perceived as a toy, the handheld equivalent of a Mac trying to take on the handheld equivalent of a real work PC. And if the contest had been left up entirely to corporate IT departments, the Blackberry would still reign.  But in the end, the demand of consumers (those essential employees) to organize their entire lives around their iPhone and its astonishing constellation of apps carried the day.   Our lives had become too fluid to have one digital hub for work and a different one for the rest of our lives,, and it’s only clear in retrospect that instead of importing our workplace’s stolid corporate IT cultures into our homes, the creative, informal, and whimsical vibe of Apple was always going to carry the day, invading the work realm in a way that would have been hard to imagine not long ago.

The other seismic cultural shift was that intimate two-way communication ceased to be the primary purpose of handheld devices. To this day, no other device can match the Blackberry, with its keyboard, for the ease with which you can pound out a long thoughtful email. I have written entire articles on a Blackberry, but I am reduced to writing like a second-grader when using the iPhone’s virtual touchscreen keyboard. The iPhone is less about correspondence and authorship than about photos, video and short tweets. The battle for inches between touchscreen and keyboard has fundamentally altered how we communicate. Twitter’s rise is the natural result of the touchscreen’s triumph. It is hard, after all, to type anything longer than a tweet on an iPhone, and just about hard to type anything accurately, as acknowledged by those ubiquitous  “pardon my typos” disclaimers on email and the zealous autocorrect.

Even friends who mock me for clinging to a Blackberry long after it ceased being cool will admit that the BB is better for email. Then they point out that the iPhone is better for everything else. But to me, that sounds a bit like saying Car X is better than Car Y for everything except getting you from Point A to Point B.

And I am sure it sounds much the same to scores of defeated engineers in Waterloo.

Andrés Martinez is editorial director of Zócalo Public Square, for which he wrote this, and vice president of the New America Foundation.


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OnePlus is is getting into a new line of business: making TVs. Best known for its phones, China’s OnePlus also has a small catalog of really good accessories like wireless earphonesand surprisingly awesome backpacks, though nothing as complex or expensive as a television set. In announcing the news on the OnePlus online forums, company chief Pete Lau describes it as “the first step in building a connected human experience.”

Every hardware manufacturer is now looking intently at ways to monetize the smart home space. Samsung and Huawei recently announced smart speakers, Apple and Google already have the HomePod and Google Home, respectively, and Microsoft and Sony are old incumbents with their Xbox and PlayStation consoles. OnePlus has decided to make its entry point into this market the TV itself, which has always been at the center of home entertainment, though often with the help of other connected devices. Reading Lau’s teaser announcement, the OnePlus TV — which so far only has a project name, no timeline or specs have been revealed — will serve as the connectivity hub for OnePlus’ future vision of the smart home.

The OnePlus smart TV will be developed by a new division within OnePlus, led by Pete Lau himself. Still at the earliest stages of development, OnePlus is currently seeking input from its fans, as it often does, about what their priorities with a future smart TV will be.

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The Summit, organized by Dedalus Global, gathers innovators, investors, policy makers and other key stakeholders in the Fintech sector to discuss technologies transforming finance on the continent, debate regulatory policies, compare best practices, and forge new ventures
LAGOS, Nigeria, September 17, 2018/ — Africa’s premier fintech event, the Africa Fintech Summit, ( will be held for the first time in Lagos, Nigeria, onNovember 8-9, 2018. This event comes on the heels of the earlier edition in Washington D.C. which featured leading policy makers, c-suite business executives, start-ups, and investors.

The Summit, organized by Dedalus Global, gathers innovators, investors, policy makers and other key stakeholders in the Fintech sector to discuss technologies transforming finance on the continent, debate regulatory policies, compare best practices, and forge new ventures.

Speaking on the decision to bring the Summit to Lagos, the Chairman of the Summit, Leland Rice, said, “Lagos is an ideal host city; it’s an epicenter of Africa’s fintech revolution and the driving force behind the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit. The successes of companies such as Paga, Flutterwave,, and Paystack have strategically positioned Lagos as the destination of choice for investors.”

“The first edition of the Summit in D.C. was a launch pad for several milestone fintech deals struck among its delegates in the months after the event. We plan to build on these successes in Lagos, with a focus on bringing innovators and policy makers together to move the needle on fintech regulation and bringing founders and investors together to facilitate further capital raises,” added Leland.

The two-day event will feature investor missions from the US, UK, and UAE, an Alpha Expo featuring the most exciting startups and entrepreneurs in Nigeria, a half-day blockchain masterclass, and an awards ceremony.

Reacting to the decision to host the Summit in Lagos, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Technology, Lanre Osibona, stated, “This reflects the progress Nigeria is making in the areas of technology and financial services. The event is very important as it comes at the heels of the Vice President Osinbajo’s trip to Silicon Valley to promote Nigeria’s tech sector. We look forward to collaborating with the organizing committee and to a successful event in Lagos.”

In similar vein, Tayo Oviosu, the founder of Paga—a payment company that recently raised $10 million in Series B2 funding—said that “the Africa Fintech Summit in Washington D.C. provided valuable insights into the fintech space and connected me with key players in the industry. I look forward to the Lagos edition.”

Speakers lined up for the event include Chief Economist of PwC Nigeria, Dr. Andrew S. Nevin; Managing General Partner of EchoVC, Eghosa Omoigui; CEO of Diamond Bank, Uzoma Dozie; Founder of Flutterwave, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji; and CEO of PayStack, Shola Akinlade, whose company recently raised $8 million Series A funding

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Dedalus Global.

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For more information, please contact:
Ridwan Sorunke
Directory of Communications, AFTS
+234 (0) 8037885760
+1 2023166726

About Dedalus Global

Dedalus Global ( is an investment and strategy advisory firm focusing on emerging markets and emerging technologies. With networks throughout Africa and the Middle East, we leverage granular market knowledge to drive innovation, accelerate capital deployment, and create value for our clients and the economies where they operate.

About Africa Fintech Summit (AFTS)

The Africa Fintech Summit ( is a biannual event that brings together leading disruptors, tech and finance professionals, regulators, and investors from around the globe to debate policies, compare best practices, and forge Africa-focused ventures. AFTS leverages the growth of the fintech sector in Africa to bring key stakeholders to discuss the technologies transforming finance on the continent.

To learn more about AFTS, please visit

View a recap from the AFTS Washington:

Dedalus Global

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Amazon is said to be prepping an ad-supported streaming video service; it’ll be available to folks who own any of the company’s Fire TV streaming dongles and set-top boxes, reports The Information.

It’ll be separate from Prime Video, which offers a range of licensed shows and movies, as well original content produced by Amazon, to people who are subscribed to Prime.

Amazon's latest streaming device is the Fire TV Cube
Credit: Amazon
Amazon’s latest streaming device is the Fire TV Cube

Do you like good gadgets?

Those sweet cool gadgets?

Oh, yeah

The idea behind this upcoming service, which is dubbed Free Dive, is to help Amazon bring in more revenue through advertising. Ads presently account for a small fraction – about $2 billion out of more than $200 billion – of its annual revenue, but they offer higher margins than retail, and are one of Amazon’s fastest growing earners company-wide.

To that end, the company’s been selling ad space on its site, and is slated to run ads during live sporting events on Prime Video. It also turned off ad-free viewing on Twitch – its game video streaming service – for Prime subscribers earlier this month.

Free Dive could give Amazon a chance to rival Roku, which offers a similar ad-supported streaming service for owners of its devices and is expected to reach 59 million users by the end of 2018. Roku also made its ‘Channel’ service available via the web earlier this month to folks in the US, so you don’t need the company’s hardware to access it. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon follows suit – and how it plays its cards with customers across the globe, especially in cost-conscious markets like India, where it’s expanding its media offerings.

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