BlackBerry, the company that once dominated smart mobile devices, recently announced it is finally discontinuing key services that support its phones. As of today, the phones will no longer be provided with provisioning services, meaning they will gradually lose the ability to join networks, including the cellular network.
It may seem difficult to imagine if you weren’t using cell phones at the time, but BlackBerry once ruled the smartphone market. Its keyboard-based hardware was widely adopted in corporate settings, in part because the services it provided typically ran through BlackBerry servers, allowing for high levels of security and control. An indication of its importance is that early internal builds of Android looked like a cheap BlackBerry knockoff, rather than the cheap iPhone knockoff that was eventually released.
Unlike the people who developed Android, BlackBerry’s leadership was blindsided by the iPhone’s popularity. BlackBerry dismissed onscreen keyboards and counted on its stranglehold on corporate services for market share. The company took over a year after the iPhone’s release to come out with its own touchscreen phone, and its software remained an awkward mix of old and new for some time after. In the meantime, corporate users fell in love with their Apple and Android phones and compelled IT departments to support them.
BlackBerry eventually gave up on its own phones and started releasing Android versions before exiting the hardware business entirely (it now primarily provides corporate security services). The last version of the BlackBerry OS it released dates back to 2013, so the devices affected here are now extremely old. The promised period of support actually ended over a year ago, which means the company has already over-delivered on its promises.
The effect of the end of support is detailed on an FAQ page that the former device maker is hosting. The key change is that BlackBerry will no longer be sending out provisioning updates to these devices. Provisioning information provides details on how the devices should establish connections with different types of networking equipment, including cellular and Wi-Fi networks. At some indeterminate point in the future, networking updates made by service providers will mean that the BlackBerry devices can no longer connect. As a result, BlackBerry says its devices “will no longer be expected to reliably function, including for data, phone calls, SMS, and 9-1-1 functionality.”
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There are a handful of software services that relied on connections to BlackBerry servers in order to function. So, if you relied on something like BlackBerry World or BlackBerry Link, those will stop functioning today.
The number of people likely to be affected by this is vanishingly small. Still, it serves as a clear marker of the end of what was once a very significant technology.
This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.
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