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Thoughts Following the RIM BlackBerry 10 Event [Opinion]

bbz10It’s no secret that I’m a big Apple / iOS fan, and I’ve been pretty hard on RIM over the past few years. I used to be a BlackBerry believer, and in my day job I work with BlackBerry, BES5 and BES10 regularly. But, when the iPhone came along and Android matured into a usable alternative, things at RIM went off the rails hard and fast. What was once an industry-leading tech company collapsed into an out of touch has-been that’s regularly derided for getting run over while standing still, then not having the common sense to recognize or admit it. Over the past 5 years, through a series of missteps and blunders by management along with a healthy dose of denial, RIM has fallen to single digit share in key markets and have lost millions of existing and potential new customers. Their Playbook offering failed to gain traction in the tablet market (again due to management missteps), and over the past year we’ve been told repeatedly that BlackBerry 10 was the game changer that would turn things around and save the company.

On Wednesday, in a 90 minute press event, the rubber hit the road when RIM (now renamed to BlackBerry) introduced the world to the Z10 and Q10 devices running the new BlackBerry 10 OS. The event itself was average (they could learn a thing or two from Apple on how to run a product launch), and was hardly the best example of how to introduce products that will either save your bacon or accelerate your spiral into obscurity. After a late start and several minutes of odd telethon-style webcast banter (including chopping the pony-tail off a Crackberry blogger), Thorsten Heins took to the stage and spent the next 15 minutes talking, clapping, and trying to get the audience excited without actually saying much. It was almost 30 awkward and forced minutes after the event started before the new BlackBerry 10 devices were actually mentioned.

Two device models were announced, the touch screen Z10 and the physical keyboard-based Q10. The presentation focused mostly on the Z10 (since the Q10 is shipping later), demos of various key features of the BlackBerry 10 OS, the announcement of key launch day apps, and the fact that Alicia Keys was now the “creative director” for the company (whatever that means).

Keys talked with Heins about how she had abandoned her original BlackBerry for something more sexy (i.e. iPhone), but stated that she and BlackBerry were “exclusively dating” again. I’m not clear how having someone like Keys will compel people to purchase or use BlackBerry 10 devices, and I suppose one shouldn’t inquire why her Twitter history shows her using the Twitter app (now available for BB10) and Instagram for iPhone (which isn’t available for BlackBerry 10) as recently as 48 hours ago. Perhaps her exclusivity is less than 24 hours old…

The odd thing during the presentation was a distinct lack of discussion regarding the new hardware itself. Yes they did demos, and while it’s not necessary to inundate the audience with speeds and feeds, it wouldn’t have hurt to at least mention basics like weight, screen resolution, battery life, storage capacities, or even available colours. Little was said in this regard and finding technical info online after the event was a challenge since it took BlackBerry several hours to get their website updated with the new model info. Pricing info during the presentation was almost non-existent (“ask your carrier”), and availability of the Z10 seemed to be either “tomorrow”, “next week”, or “soon”. The Q10 barely got a mention but is targeted for a Spring launch. Personally, if my company was in a death spiral I’d go out of my way to let people know exactly “how much” and “when” rather then leaving them to find this info from their local carrier.

The question now is, will it be enough?

The challenge BlackBerry faces isn’t just to stem the loss of existing customers, but to steal a good number from Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It’s not enough to finally make a full touchscreen smartphone that doesn’t suck (remember the Storm?) so that their admittedly loyal fans don’t have to tolerate the painful mess that is BlackBerry 7. They need to make something that compels a large number of iOS and Android owners (and to a lesser extent Windows Phone users) to consider the Z10 as an alternative. While the new OS is better and the Z10 hardware is decent, neither seem to offer a compelling reason for a current iOS or Android user to switch, or for a user considering iOS or Android to consider BlackBerry instead. They’ve simply added another option to the mix without providing a compelling reason to choose it over the others.

nseries_black_front-1I have no doubt that existing BlackBerry users will jump on the new products, as both devices are miles head of the existing BlackBerry products (although the Q10 looks suspiciously like a 9900 with a slightly bigger touch screen). Corporate customers who were considering abandoning BlackBerry may stick with them, and some as-yet undecided consumers will choose a Z10 over iOS or Android. I expect that in the near term BlackBerry will announce decent sales numbers, but I also expect that will taper off once the initial excitement wears thin.

At the end of the day, when compared to the iPhone 5, Nexus 4, or Galaxy S3, the Z10 doesn’t really stand out from the crowd, and the BlackBerry 10 OS, while offering many improvements, is strangely featureless with little in the way of killer features or apps that might make people stop and reconsider their choice of device.

In a world that already has Apple and Google battling for first place, BlackBerry is relegated to fighting Microsoft for 3rd place, a position that isn’t exactly generating impressive sales numbers for Microsoft these days. Maybe BlackBerry will be happy to be #3 or #4, but I don’t think the market will tolerate it. Unless they can find a way through these devices and the OS to gain significant market share and claw their way back to relevance, I feel all they have accomplished is to buy themselves a little more time before death comes calling.

BlackBerry 10 was the thing RIM told us to wait for, the thing that would turn the tide, the saviour that would return BlackBerry to relevance. Now that it’s launched all the cards are on the table, there’s nothing else to fall back on if they lose this final hand, and it’s a high stakes game.

Let the chips fall where they may.

Husband & Father. Apple, Music, Comics, Food, Travel, Wine, Tech, Space & Gadget lover. An IT generalist, X5 driver, Lost fan, and occasional Writer. Follow me on Twitter @swotam or App.net @swotam

  • Sunra

    Nicely put. If you already have a Blackberry these models will make you feel better, for the rest of us there’s not much excitement.

  • FragilityG4

    One tough road to climb … How they make the Americans wait over a month for this is proof they haven’t left their old ways behind completely.

  • Dave

    wow most biased article I have ever read? decent hardware?? better screen the the ishit 5 and gs3, more ram then iphone, better more intuitive os lol the list goes one. How much did Apple pay you to write this? Dont listen to this idiot who probly has no idea how to use a smartphone which is why hes using an iphone.

  • m Arch Tom’s on Bar N Ass

    long article and unlikely i’m gonna read all of it again however, if ever i had in mind i could switch from iphone to BB in the near future, Alicia Keys as creative director of a hi-tech company made me change my mind. i don’t quite feel artists can be trusted in a serious business( not much with feet on the ground and very few exceptions can actually prove entrepreneur skills and abilities to stick with net profit, gross income, market share, stock exchange performance etc. ) marc

  • Dodson

    If it doesn’t have twitter, why does it show it on the home screen in your pictures of the phone? Dink.

  • Anthony ?

    The Twitter app for BB10 was recently added to BlackBerry World so that’s one less thing missing. Still doesn’t explain why their creative director didn’t have access to a device running the app until yesterday. I guess her role doesn’t include actually using the product prior to release.

  • Anthony ?

    I don’t need Apple to pay me, I’ve had a BB10 device since October so I’ve got a pretty good handle on what it can and cannot do and can speak from experience. You?

  • crosseyed_mofo

    if apple paid him to write this he wouldnt have mentioned android

  • Anthony ?

    Shh, don’t ruin his fantasy!

  • Anthony ?

    Ya, didn’t quite understand the logic of that one. It’s their biggest market for premium devices by far so you’d think they would get it going on day 1. I’m sure UK first is great for people in the UK, but pushing the US out until March is odd. Probably some carrier dispute or maybe a delay in getting devices built for their various carrier partners.

  • hlna55

    The biggest issue I see in the way of intangibles is that RIM’s lack of creativity made a lot of BB fans (and I was one) eventually swallow crow and move to another platform… whichever that may be is not the subject or the issue. When I made the move, I was happy that I made it and then, like many i’m sure, went through the barrage of.. “HAHAHAHA Where’s your AWESOME Blackberry now?” harassment. To get people like me back, they have to motivate the original BB users to once again invest in their devices and be their “everyday” advertising.

    Since I’ve changed over, I can say that I’ve convinced no less than 15 people to abandon the BrickBerrys… if everyone of the existing 80mm users did that… they would find themselves in a much better state. Wouldn’t you agree?

  • http://www.facebook.com/trent.fehr Trent Fehr

    What boggles me is their treatment of business customers. From what I can tell, the Z10 won’t run on older BES implementations, and previous models won’t run on the new BES. So that means we need to run parallel implementations, with all the cost associated with that. Furthermore, to move CALs (client access licenses) over to the new BES, there’s a fee. We get a discount over new CALs, but not a big one. Really, BlackBerry? Really?

  • crosseyed_mofo

    one things for sure, this should significantly stop the hemorrhaging of those abandoning blackberry, for now…

    but if BB sits on 10 and they dont continue pushing forward at consistent and timely intervals, they are done

  • fredf

    Much of the problem is simply because Blackberry is playing catch up.
    I think if the iPhone 5 was new on the market reviewers would be saying that iOS is outdated and the hardware, while nice, isn’t ‘ahead of the pack’.

    Truth is BB10 is better thought out than iOS. However the apps are missing and aren’t likely to be developed.
    But if you’re a business user and don’t need all the superfluous apps that pollute iTunes, the Z10 will work great for you.

  • damien

    So this was only a way to bash blackberry? Nothing positive was said about this. I’m no blackberry fan as I own a gs3 but it seems that your die hard Apple loyalty blinds you about the Z10 sir.

  • rje

    Very cynical. Very negative. Tell me something good about it all. There has to be something…

  • crosseyed_mofo

    please point out one instance of bashing blackberry or that this article is in anyway an example of blind apple loyalty please.

  • londonfish

    why are android or bb fans here and be surprised if articles here are not in their favour? go spend time on sites dedicated to your favourite devices, go make yourself happy, I don’t understand these ppl wasting their time here…

  • FragilityG4

    “It’s no secret that I’m a big Apple / iOS fan, and I’ve been pretty hard on RIM over the past few years.”

    First line of the article.

    This is an iPhone blog site … Not BlackBerry … Stop trolling … Loser.

  • Farids

    Forgive me for asking. Which GS3 do you have? The quad core model Samsung introduced to the whole world as GS3, or, the dual core model, a totally different phone they also called GS3 and sold to the customers in north America, who thought they were buying the better phone? Not trying to imply anything, just curious.

  • Cormang

    And you’ve used it in the Enterprise? With BES10? You’ve used the massive Management Platform available for BlackBerry devices which no other platform in the world has? I’m not a BlackBerry fanboy, far from it. In fact, I’m probably the last person to ask abotu Blackberry for an opinion. I’ll tell you the hardware is cheap and unreliable, the operating system is dated, and over all it’s a poor experience.

    But, when it comes to the Enterprise, the device is by far the best choice. Period. There’s no arguement. And now with BB10, I’d have to say that the gap has closed even further and now Apple, Google, and even Microsoft have a massive competitor in the Enterprise.

    Who knows, maybe by this time next year they will win back the trust of the consumer market.

    With all that said, this article was very biased and from a consumers point of view, which is not really fair. The same way bashing an iPhone for business is not fair, because it simply has no place in the business at this time. The cost is HUGE. But BlackBerry has an amazing Enterprise Solution which a majorioty of Enterprises already have implemented.

  • http://twitter.com/westben56 Ben Wolters

    If you were majoring in journalism, this article would be an epic “fail”, your personal bias bled through the entire article. Please leave product evaluations for the professionals.

  • Anthony ?

    Yes I’ve used their products in the enterprise, I’m a BES administrator as part of my job role. I’ve already got BES10 up and running, tested with BB10, etc.

    I’m not disparaging RIM’s credentials as an enterprise solution, that’s never really been something people have questioned. But, as we’ve seen from the way things have gone for RIM over the past few years, having the most secure and robust solution for enterprise device management isn’t enough. Their enterprise server software was never the problem.

    Their primary problem was their inability to gain traction in the consumer market when competing against iOS and Android, and their failure to accept and deal with this in a timely manner. It’s been almost 5.5 years since the iPhone was announced and the fact that it has taken them this long to get to the point of launching the new devices is unforgivable considering that they spent the first 3.5 years of iPhone (and Android) existence denying the fact that they were a threat in the first place.

    The post was written from an consumer point of view because the problem is entirely one of acceptance and adoption in the consumer market, and their significant losses in this market. It’s an opinion piece therefore it reflects my opinion of what they announced on Wednesday. Their success or failure will hinge on their ability to gain traction with consumers with the new devices, not in the enterprise. If you don’t think that’s the case then you haven’t been paying attention to why they’re in the situation they’re in.

    As another tech blogger wrote yesterday, “Good enough is not good enough when you’re way behind. You need to make a great leap ahead to make a big comeback.”

  • Anthony ?

    I guess it’s a good thing that I’m not majoring in journalism then?

    Also, it’s an opinion piece. But thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Guest

    This actually a very unbiased article, it only displays what the consumers think.