"Picture a cell phone and an email machine all in one thing!"
As far as elevator pitches go, that must've sounded a little out there in 1996, the year IFC Films' "BlackBerry" opens. After all, it was nearly a year before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, so you had to have a little vision for how that technological mashup might work. But it was the second part of the pitch depicted in the film, which opens in theaters May 17, that got investors interested: "There is a free wireless internet signal all across North America and nobody has figured out how to use it."
Needless to say, the nerds at BlackBerry founder Research In Motion figured it out, and the rest is history.
The film, which waxes nostalgic, is hilarious and seems relatively quaint by today's always-on, next-gen generative state of mobile communications. But it also provides some valuable business insights on what to do -- and what not to do -- if you're an undercapitalized, venture-backed, start-up expanding rapidly beyond your means as bigger, much more established competitors take notice.
And nearly three decades later, as Apple begins rolling out another mind-blowing update -- version 16.4 of iOS -- I still yearn for the ergonomic simplicity of the BlackBerry's chiclet-style keypad.
Or as one of the main characters explains while demonstrating a prototype to a potential investor, "Try typing with your thumbs."
Back in the day, I could have written this column on my BlackBerry.
You know what this column was NOT written on in 2023? My so-called smartphone.