Thursday, 31 January 2013

Blackberry is back... APParently


To great international fanfare Blackberry (formally RIM) unveiled their new flag ship handsets, the Z10 and the Q10. Following years of unrelenting market share decline, sub-par hardware and an OS that failed to innovate, BB110 has finally arrived; but is it enough to return the former king of smart phones, back to being a market leader?

Blackberry’s renaissance was a long time coming and it demonstrated that the company finally listened to their end users and industry experts. They took an introspective look at their products and revaluated what Blackberry could be in the future, rather than what it was in the past. What this meant in practical terms was that the company need to build a brand new touch friendly OS from the ground up, create beautiful hardware with market leading industrial design, and enhance their paltry ecosystem into something that could complete with the likes of Android and iOS. 

The problem that Blackberry faced was that they could only ever be fully in control of two of the three criteria. Yes they could design an intuitive OS that would go beyond their established BBM and email services, whilst not alienating their existing fan base. Yes they could produce hardware that, although bares some striking resemblance to the iphone 5, is a dramatic improvement over their previous touch screen disasters. However, the greatest hurdle that they needed to jump over, and the one that they simply could not do on their own, was the development of a comprehensive ecosystem which encompassed the worlds best Apps, Music and Videos.

The current App market is dominated by iOS and Android. Developers are constantly updating their applications to work with new software, varying screen sizes and faster processors, and as such, they are already stretched in delivering their content to a proven platform. The proposition of taking engineers and developers off of iOS and Android to work on a totally new platform, in the hope that it might gain traction in 12 – 18, is a very tough sell. With close to three quarters of a billion apps already in competing App markets, the 70,000 that Blackberry launched with simply will not cut it. With end users spending an increasing amount of time on their phones within an app, the importance of a fluid, developed and comprehensive ecosystem cannot be underestimated.

The good news is that Blackberry have retuned to the market with vastly improved hardware and an operating system that is infinitely better than what preceded it. The bad news is that neither the hardware nor software is better than what is already on the market. Without killer apps, back catalogues of music, movies and TV shows, it is questionable whether any existing Android or iOS user would be inclined to forfeit their contract, sever all of their ties with their previous operating system and jump onto Blackberry Bandwagon.

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