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In 2005, Research In Motion was on top of the world.
The Waterloo, Ontario, company and name behind the BlackBerry brand had just unveiled alliances with tech trailblazers Microsoft and Intel. Its BlackBerry "email devices" had won numerous accolades, including a spot on PCWorld's annual 100 Best Products list. Its subscriber base had hit the 4 million mark, and co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis had made Time Magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People of the year as "The BlackBerry Guys."
Writing for Time Magazine, George Stephanopoulos, who profiled Balsillie and Lazaridis for the 2005 write-up, detailed RIM's longtime reign in the handheld communication market, the BlackBerry's rise to becoming a "pop-culture phenomenon" and the coining of BlackBerry as a verb.
[Related: 8 Factors That Led To RIM's Fall]
Stephanopoulous went on to reveal his own addiction to the BlackBerry -- a trend that ushered the phrase "CrackBerry" into the popular lexicon. At home, in the office, and even at the gym, RIM's popular device could be found glued to his hand, Stephanopoulos admitted. A rule had to be put in place prohibiting him from checking his BlackBerry under the dinner table, and he once took some heat for sneaking it into his daughter's preschool orientation.
How many at the time recognized themselves in Stephanopoulos' description of his own behavior?
"Lazaridis and Balsillie have made a fortune with their business and cultural breakthrough," he concluded. "That makes the BlackBerry a case study for MBAs -- and maybe philosophers too."
Two weeks before Stephanopoulos' profile appeared in April 2005, RIM crossed the $1 billion sales mark for the first time, reporting then-record annual revenue of $1.35 billion -- more than double the $594.6 million it had reported in 2004 -- along with a profit of $206 million, up from $52 million in fiscal 2005. Balsillie referred to it as a "landmark year" for the company.
CNN Money also had reported that month a 25 percent surge in RIM stock and told potential investors it was "ripe to buy."
RIM's success continued for years. Even as recently as 2010, mobile market researcher ComScore reported that "The BlackBerry Guys" held 43 percent of the U.S. mobile OS market share -- and competitors weren't even close. Apple's iOS, which ran on the Cupertino, Calif.-based company's increasingly sought-after iPhone, was next in line (but still at a safe distance) with 25 percent. Microsoft claimed third place with an even less threatening 15 percent. And Google's Android was still in its infancy, accounting for a meager 7 percent.
But by the end of 2011, RIM's fortunes had changed dramatically for the worse, bringing to a close one of the worst years in the company's 28-year history. It was a year plagued by a lackluster tablet launch, a major service outage and product delays. Perhaps most embarrassing was an open letter from a member of the senior management team to the company's co-CEOs -- written a few days after RIM revealed plans to lay off 2,000 employees, more than 10 percent of its workforce -- that began with the ominous words "I have lost confidence."
Wall Street demonstrated a similar lack of faith. After the company that December reported a drop in third-quarter fiscal 2011 profit to $265 million -- which was down 19 percent from the $911 million reported a year earlier -- CNN Money reported that RIM shares were down 77 percent year-to-date and were being traded at their lowest level since January 2004.
It seemed the BlackBerry, a former pop-culture phenomenon, was becoming irrelevant.
Analysts have attributed RIM's fall to a number of things. Increased competition from Apple and Google is one of them. By the second quarter of 2012, Android had propelled itself to the top by capturing 64 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, according to Gartner. Apple's iOS claimed the runner-up spot with 19 percent of the market. But RIM, on the other hand, took a nosedive and closed the quarter with just more than 5 percent of the market, down from 18 percent two years prior.