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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Blackberry: What needs to happen??

RIM face some tough commercial decisions for the rest of 2010. Will they keep up with the Jones', or will they stick with their core demographic - the business user? We've seen the software race with various OS's (Android, iPhone, Web OS) dominating debate and market share over the last 12 months. But with Windows Phone 7 coming soon, the hardware race is back on - and if RIM are not careful they could be left behind.

Demographic/ Market Share

The business user is RIM's core demographic and this has been their focus, since like... forever. But for every business user who loves the BB they were told to carry by their boss, there may be one who detests it or sees it as a means to an end. For me, RIM need to push the personal consumer market more heavily and give guys like me something that will compare reasonably to the high-end hardware that is coming out like a conveyor belt.

Sure they don't want to alienate their core users but there must be ways of doing it. I mean, if RIM want to see genuine growth of market share, where is it going to come from? How many businesses out there who would be inclined to get BB, don't have it already? Conversely, other smartphone makers will see RIM's market share as a growth opportunity by trying to offer viable alternatives that are potentially better and cheaper. Sure, the BES Express that was released during Mobile World Congress (MWC) will pull in a few extra SMEs but its only an incremental change.

So, to attract the more discerning personal consumer, what needs to happen?

OS developments

What we need is a step change. Microsoft are doing it, RIM need to think carefully about it too. I see no reason why you cant combine the usability, and e-mail demonry of the current OS with a better, more flexible UI. I get the why they keep it locked down, it creates a stable platform and adds to overall reliability which enterprise users demand. But enterprise users are going to look across to their friends who have iPhones, Droids or WM7s and wonder what could be?


Apple totally own RIM in this area. Noises were made about Super Apps during MWC, but what does this mean and do people actually care? There are some so-called Super Apps out there already, and Facebook is quoted as one of them. But, quite frankly, its shit! I don't actually blame RIM for this. It is likely to be the ever changing world of Facebook with its constant changes to UI and other protocols that will no doubt be challenging for developers.

App pricing should also be reviewed. I have never paid for a Blackberry App and can't see me ever paying much more than £1-2. So when I look at the app store, I see many apps that are over 10 times that bracket I lose interest quickly. So, to attract more non-business users, these have to be affordable.

Blackberry Messenger

I have not been impressed with any of the Multi-IM clients currently on offer. I refuse to pay for something that is free on other platforms so, after a promising start, Beejive got binned. Nimbuzz is currently on the go but is a bit clunky and not particularly responsive for my liking. So, if BBM was opened up as a Multi-IM client - hey-presto, its the only show in town!


Webkit has been on the horizon for the entire time I have been a BB user. I do hope it lives up to the hype or I will be sorely disappointed. The native browser is okay and has actually been growing on my recently, despite its poor rendering capability. I have recently also dabbled with Opera Mini which is certainly fast but is not as usable as the native browser. It does however bring the tabbed browsing experience to the mobile, which is neat, but some of the controls are fidgety, particularly those for scrolling and zooming. I'll leave chat on browsers there fpr now as Doppleganger and I will be doing a more in-depth review of browsers in the coming weeks.

Above all else, RIM need to focus on their strengths.
They have multiple form factors with an obvious strategy of trying to have a phone for every potential user. I see this as quite a clever maneouvre as there is no doubt that I have seen quite a lot more Blackberry's around. That may be as a result of having one myself as I had a similar experience when buying my first car... It was a Mazda - and I went from never really noticing them before, to spotting them everywhere I went. That said, maybe RIM could do with less new handsets and more OS and app developments.

Push e-mail is great but other platforms will catch up eventually. In fact, as I write - iPhone OS4 is promising greater push functionality so perhaps some enhancements in this area are in ordr. I suspect this is where Super-Apps are going to come into play, with more apps having multiple layers and full integration with push notifications.

Battery life is excellent on my Bold 9700. I can usually get a couple of days of usage out of it before recharging and I am a fairly constant user - just ask my wife!

Speed - I love the fact the phone responds quickly and lagging is minimal. Multi-tasking is in its blood and it switches from e-mail to browswer to UberTwitter to making a call effortlessly. This needs to continue as I have noticed some clunkiness when using Android on my wife's Hero, so this could be a differentiator for RIM.

Frequent OS and app releases. It satisfies the geeky hordes who love playing with something new and is in contrast to other platforms that seem to take an age. One annoyance though is that there can be too many releases and most of them appear to be 'leaks', which are then released officially. Obviously RIM just want some free feedback from the aforementioned geeky hordes, but its harder for the less informed to keep up - and I count myself in that bracket.

In short, RIM could well be coming to a crossroads. Much is promised with OS6, Webkit Browser and Super-Apps in particular, but this needs to turn into more than promise - it needs to be reality. It is strongly rumoured that the Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) conference at the end of April will see a number of big announcements from RIM. Lets hope so!


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