Only two years ago, the BlackBerry was a communication device so powerful it was credited with enabling a revolution in Egypt.
During the riots that engulfed London in the summer of 2011, politicians called for the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service to be switched off.
But today, users are pulling the plug.
BlackBerry's global market share has collapsed from around 50% in 2009 to less than 3% today. At its peak in 2008, the company that invented the smartphone by creating machines that could serve up emails on the go, had a stockmarket value of $55bn. Today, it is worth just $6bn.
While a hard core of older corporate users still prefer its physical keyboard to the touch screens of the typical modern smartphone, the once noisy BBM grapevine is falling silent as younger customers switch to other handsets.
'BBM is dead…' writes teenager James Gooderson – on Twitter. 'The last broadcast I had was about 14 months ago… the survivors?… Yes there are some… we're only a shell of what we were…'
Gooderson blames BlackBerry's failure on the lack of apps, the collections of programmes that serve up everything from ebay's auction platform to computer games and weather forecasts.
Today's smartphones are pocket computers from which to access the wider web. And without what the industry calls a healthy ecosystem, no smartphone interface can survive.
For several years following Apple's invention of the iPhone in 2007, BlackBerry executives continued to believe the consumer research that told them nobody wanted phones with no keyboard, battery life of less than a day, and screens that broke on impact with the ground.
The older generation of BlackBerrys could read email, but click on a web link and they crashed. Beyond sending and receiving messages, they were of limited use.
Eventually, an investor rebellion at BlackBerry saw founder Mike Lazaridis and co-chief executive Jim Balsillie moved aside, and Thorsten Heins promoted from within. Instead of adopting Google's Android platform, already popular with millions of consumers, Heins spent a year developing BlackBerry 10, a new interface that could deliver all the web had to offer.
Founded by Lazaridis in 1984 in the Canadian town of Waterloo, Ontario, BlackBerry had made pagers before it worked out how to link mobile phones to email servers. With one successful reinvention under its belt, BlackBerry believed it could deliver another.
The first device using BB10, a touch-screen handset called the Z10, arrived in January, shortly followed by a version with a physical keyboard, the Q10. But despite ebullient roadshows and generous financial incentives to encourage developers to create apps for the new platform, its ecosystem was far from thriving. Spotify, Tumblr, the Temple Run and Candy Crush games are just some of the notable missing titles and several high-profile games were missing. By June, it became apparent that the relaunch was losing momentum. BlackBerry announced to investors that it had shifted just 6.8m of the new-generation devices, a fraction of those shipped during the same period by Apple and Samsung.
On Monday, the company formed a special committee to consider all options, including a sale or break-up of the business. Prem Watsa, whose investment fund Fairfax Financial owns a 10% stake, resigned from the board citing conflict of interest. He is now considered a likely candidate to organise a private-equity buyout.
Microsoft, Samsung and Dell have all been mentioned as potential buyers. Chinese computer maker Lenovo has already expressed an interest, but it is likely BlackBerry could lose its lucrative US government contracts given fears about Chinese sponsored cyber-spying.
Benedict Evans at Enders Analysis believes a sale to another manufacturer is the least likely outcome, and that a break up would generate most value. BlackBerry's patents could be auctioned, while its messaging services could be sold to IBM, Hewlett-Packard or the outsourcing group Accenture. 'BlackBerry just makes phones no one wants,' says Evans. 'I can't see any handset maker who could buy BlackBerry wanting anything that they've got.'
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image: © Sophie Schieli