RIM lures consumers in with a few things that BlackBerry does very well. First is most obvious and that’s their email client. We know that when it comes to power email usage no one can touch BlackBerry. It’s such a simple thing yet no one else gets it. Second is its instant message system, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). While every phone has Yahoo, AIM, Gtalk, and a slew of other IM clients only RIM has BBM. Third is their new Playbook tablet. I know this seems weird but I think the cross functionality between a tablet and a phone is something no one else is doing and really has to be seen as a strong upside to RIM’s tablet. The tablet is what RIM wants to eventually shrink into your palm. Lastly is RIM’s ability to sip data in an extremely efficient way. This means more now than ever with every carrier looking to limit your data consumption.
No matter how great the personality a book is judged by its cover. The Torch and the Style are the two most recent models released from RIM. The Style is a flip phone being nothing more than an overweight Pearl flip. The Torch was supposed to be the huge consumer device that neither Storm model managed to live up to. With a touch screen and a slide out portrait oriented keyboard this phone was a ‘Franken-berry.’ Consumers were divided either in love, or grabbing pitchforks and storming the lab. Look at the new line of RIM phones coming down the pipe and you see the major effort to turn up the sex appeal. These phones look like Steve Jobs consulted on them while still holding onto everything that makes a BlackBerry unique. The new Curve model codenamed ‘Apollo’ is simply soaked in sexy. This being RIM’s bottom level device for all carriers it just shows where they’re looking to go. Looks and legacy form factor matter to users. RIM seems to be covering both of those in the upcoming lineup.
Where are they going? I’m glad you asked because RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis was nice enough to lay out a road map for us during CES in an interview with PCMag. When asked about their lack of a super phone that can go toe to toe with Apple’s iPhone he was quite blunt. The phones are coming; just as soon as battery life and dual-core CPU’s are developed that can meet the standards they’re looking for in a small form factor. See Mike has a 10 year plan. Let’s break it down for you.
- Take over the corporate business across the globe
- Hook users into the addiction of constant contact
- Focus on corporate security features and compliance
- Build the Playbook
- Make a Super-Phone
Anyone else notice that leaves 9 years to make a Super-Phone? Yea that’s because Mike went on to explain that 4G isn’t need for BlackBerry handsets because they’re so great at making the most of bandwidth. Much of the world is still a mostly 2G, poor place. BlackBerry will always be global and North American trends will not push this giant from its path. He went on to explain there are 3 markets, tablets, handsets, and super smartphones. RIM is very happy with where they sit now. Cheap, 2G optimized handsets for poor countries.
RIM won’t lose mind share with your company’s IT department. Ask the average consumer if they’re looking elsewhere and that’s another story. A recent survey on Crackberry.com asked if users would be dropping their BlackBerry for the Verizon iPhone. Nearly half of the 17,400+ voters responded ‘Yes.’ On a site driven by the addiction of BlackBerry nearly half of their readers felt the iPhone was a better option. That’s a staggering number. I’m not sure you’ll find a website with a more biased and dedicated user base and yet even they aren’t interested in the future of the platform. How can you look at all of this information and not proclaim that RIM hasn’t already lost mind share? Is it our perception of RIM? Is it because they were so massive and seemed so untouchable just a few years ago? I think the answer isn’t so clear. It has something to do with where RIM once was as much as it has to do with where RIM’s headed. RIM isn’t trying to compete with the iPhone of today. They’re instead saying their phones are 2nd tier and they’re happy with that. Their tablet is going to be their main focus. They’ll iron out the kinks in their super-phone of tomorrow by perfecting their tablet of today. Consumer mind share be damned.
As RIM’s consumer mind share slips away like the air from a balloon. RIM will continue to be busy in their Canadian bunker developing and working on what very well could be the next ‘it’ phone. They’ve done it once and they can easily do it again.