Blackberry has put all their cards on the table. The new Blackberry 10 OS will determine the fate of the new Z10 and Q10 smartphones. We want to stop the bleeding of this smartphone pioneer and show that they can still be competitive with Apple, Google and Microsoft. But did Blackberry achieve that goal at yesterday’s launch event?
I’ve been looking forward to this event and the company formerly known as RIM completely overlooked Mobile Geeks. Thanks to a special invitation from fellow bloggers in the Middle East and Caribbean, we didn’t have to miss this event. After all, the feeling that something great could happen and the Canadians could turn this thing around was very palpable.
For more than 3 years, I was an avid BlackBerry user and in particular, of the Bold models. The 9700 was my last smartphone with a physical keyboard before I, in late summer 2010 with the HTC Desire, switched to Android. For me it was quite a transformational experience and a real process (and yes, I missed the damn keyboard time and time again).
Honestly, with Blackberry I’m perhaps a little more subjective than all the other sites when I write comments or do tests on their devices. While half the world already championed the touchscreen smartphones with Android and iOS, I continued to wave the flag of the Canadians high in the air. I continued even when the competition grew overwhelming and the AppStore started to take over.
Who needed all those damned apps anyway? I used above all, email, messaging, calendar and my browser. My BlackBerry Bold 9700 was a messaging machine, a workhorse and I secretly liked the aura of Business and Enterprise it gave me. Look, I’m not playing, I’m working!
Well, and then it went downhill for RIM, which certainly has nothing to do with the fact that I left the boys and girls “from the Great White North” for Android. RIM didn’t bother to pay attention to the trends and what began as ignorance turned into arrogance. If every quarter you’re pulling off incredible sales and remarkable success, if everything you do seems like gold, you have to look over your shoulder every now and then to make sure the competition isn’t sneaking up on you. If you don’t, the competition will assuredly steal your thunder with a wild innovation that turns the market on its head. Blackberry and Nokia had to learn the hard way.
The BlackBerry PlayBook launch event in September of 2010 in San Francisco, summed up all of this for me. Nicole and I were already in place and wanted get to accredited the week before. The competent staff at Blackberry turned a simple procedure into an absolute mess of such nonsense that I have never experienced before or since in the tech industry.
The event itself confirmed that the “Reality Distortion Field” was alive and well. Blackberry boasted sensational numbers like: “We are market leader in the 17-21-year old in Indonesia.” I wanted to scream in the hall, “Who listens to this marketing bullshit? YOur ship is already sinking!”
Well, the Playbook was a highlight for me. Their Tablet OS, even in 2013, is by far the best performing and most intuitive operating system for the tablet platform. The people at QNX have worked hard and shown what is possible.
Now, Blackberry 10
On January 30th came the turning point and I had the good fortune to be present in Dubai. Honestly, the first 25 minutes of the presentation left me thinking of the worst experiences I’d had with BlackBerry in the past. The marketing message was very one-dimensional and listless.
The product presentation made me sit up and inspired new excitement. Yes, the BlackBerry Balance is great, the lift looks great and the virtual keyboard is intriguing. That sets new standards.
BlackBerry 10 is practically a pressure bandage that stops the bleeding, but I fear that this has come far too late! In January 2012, the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone would have been a killer and its features would have been followed with exclamation points. Now I tend to be more likely to say that it is a bit “too little, too late” and that is because the ultimate killer feature is missing. It just doesn’t have a feature that does it all. It needs an app which you can show to an Android or iOS user and watch as their jaws drop.
Blackberry desperately needed a WOW factor. Sure, there will be the professional users who have migrated in recent years to Android and iOS, who might take a look at the platform and change back. But it’s a big maybe and I doubt that the Canadians will find themselves back in the limelight as one of the 3 big smartphone ecosystems.
I really hoped that Blackberry would astound with something truly new. Neither iOS or Android are really competitors for Blackberry. Windows Phone is actually the true competitor. Both find themselves in the executive category. Therein lies Blackberry’s dim and flickering hope for a brightly ignited flame.
Blackberry 10 is a necessary milestone for the Canadians, nothing more. They needed an extra push forward to be competitive in 2013.
But I’m not giving up hope.
(Translated from the German by Sascha Pallenberg)