Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the once-dominant BlackBerry platform, has announced the launch date of its BlackBerry 10 phones to be January 30 by all the major US carriers except Sprint, who has promised a BB10 phone later in the year. Many analysts believe that this launch is the last-ditch effort by RIM to regain relevance in an industry dominated by iPhone and Android devices, and just as many have already counted them out.
What this means for you:
If you are one of the dwindling BlackBerry faithful, there is a lot to whet your (by now, monstrous) appetite: the new RIM OS modern look and all new code-base (supposedly no carry-over code from older RIM OS’s) will hopefully update BlackBerry’s staid, corporate image. However, the new BB10 phones have multiple strikes against them:
- Developers for the “staple” apps (Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc) will undoubtedly develop versions of their omnipresent apps because they can fund the development off the backs of their profitable iOS and Android counterparts, but don’t expect surprise hits from indie developers appearing on BB10 first – there just isn’t a large enough userbase to warrant the investment gamble. RIM has sponsored some recent events to kickstart development, but proof will be in whether BB10’s launch will be a repeat of Microsoft’s Windows Phone lackluster debut.
- BlackBerry’s current infrastructure has some serious redudancy flaws that has led to some titanic outages. Once viewed as the most reliable platform in the early days of smartphones, the series of recent, widespread outages has severely tarnished RIM’s image.
- RIM has been lapped by Apple and Google, OS-wise, at least 2 to 3 times now. RIM is just launching a competitor to phone OS’s that were developed years ago. Unless this horse can fly, there is no way BB10 is catching iOS6 or Jelly Bean in this race.
I suspect that RIM isn’t quite done – they still have a nice chunk of the market, but they aren’t going to supplant iPhones or Androids anytime soon.
Once the darling of the business world, RIM’s BlackBerry phone platform has seen a continous erosion of its dominance in the corporate world since Apple’s iPhone first arrived on the scene in 2007. Two recent articles in PC World and CNET underline RIM’s continuing struggle to remain relevant in an iPhone/Android world.
According to those that have seen it, RIM’s impending release of version 10 of the BlackBerry OS will put the company’s phones on par with its competition, but at the cost of incompatibility with the existing Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) infrastructure installed in just about every business that supports them.
On top of this huge stumbling block, retailers are pulling back their commitments to BlackBerries, according to one analyst, signaling a general lack of confidence in the strength of the platform and brand.
What this means for you:
If your company has standardized on BlackBerries for its employees and you have a decent investment in technology and resources to support it, you should have nothing to worry about in the short term, but should closely evaluate future spending to support this platform. Your 2-5 year plan should look into expanding your communication network to include the other smartphone platforms, if they aren’t already in use in your enterprise. The BlackBerry platform still has numerous strengths, mostly in the area of asset managment, security and reliability, but the older devices lack modern appeal and versatility. Today’s modern employee, especially the younger generations, view their phones as an extension of both their professional and personal lives, and the continued lack of innovation on the platform has eroded their credibility, utility and appeal across the board.
While it’s possible that RIM may work a miracle and come back from the brink of extinction, I rate their chances as highly unlikely.