Let’s face it: Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry smartphones, floundered dramatically in 2011. What with the near-week-long international outage, a failure that is the PlayBook, and a series of hit-and-misses, there’s no doubt that its leadership will be wishing for a miracle to launch them back into the smartphone game.
You must understand, BlackBerry was, not so long ago, the leader in the pre-smartphone era, when it came to email and instant messaging on-the-go. However, like Nokia, they did not see the phantom iPhone storm that changed the entire notion of the mobile phone.
So, after the average attempt at modernizing the operating system that powers their phones in 2010 (with BlackBerry OS 6), RIM brought out OS 7 earlier this year, along with new phones that integrate the touch screen and physical keyboard that so defined these phones.
Now, RIM is pinning their redemption hopes on a new, modern operating system they call BlackBerry 10 (formerly BBX). It’s based on the strengths of the PlayBook, and supposedly aims to bring the aging smartphone brand into the race with the likes of iPhone and Android.
Whilst I lambast the BlackBerry on a daily basis (my own phone, a BlackBerry Bold 9700, crashes daily), and I continuously tout the brilliance of the iPhone, I do hope that Research in Motion will take heed of their mistakes in 2011, and launch courageously into the new year with the promise of a better start. If anything, it’ll force the market leaders (iPhone) to be on top of their game.
RIM must realize that you can’t hope for success in this arena by simply sticking a touch screen onto an existing, old platform. You need to rethink the entire concept of the mobile phone in this age. That’s what Apple did with iPhone, and the success speaks for itself. BB10, then, should re-envision the BlackBerry product, not merely updating it to fit today’s standards. They need a better application store (App World), and they need to entice developers. They need to make the platform lucrative, and prove that they’ve got something that can hopefully withstand the might of the iPhone. Yes, BBM is a selling point (and a customer magnet). It forces most consumers to stick to the platform, as most of their friends are reachable in an intuitive manner. RIM has already begun to leverage this strength with BBM Connected Apps. But they need to do more; they need to have an holistic, complete developer toolkit similar to what Apple offers with Xcode and the iOS developer programme. Once developers realize that they can, in fact, work on this platform, there will be better content available with which users can interact with. And content, as we’ve seen with the iTunes and Apple App Store model, are what work best to entice consumers.
However, things are already not looking too good: BlackBerries running the new OS 10 will only be available in the third quarter of 2012. So, in the meanwhile, we’ll have to remain content with the current, rather lackluster series of devices running OS 7. Don’t get me wrong; OS 7 is still a significant improvement over the previous software, but it remains no match for what the guys over at Apple, Android and Microsoft are up to with their respective mobile products.
Looking forward to seeing how RIM will fare in 2012…