Not so very long ago BlackBerry filled a niche, providing near real-time communications for corporate “suit” on-the-go. The popularity of RIM’s devices soon spread to the masses. After a very successful run, the BlackBerry faced a fork in the road.
I’m reminded of the 1990’s when Palm was the leader and had amassed a huge following, so large in fact that they made the decision to license their OS to manufacturers. Soon Palm OS was popping up on other devices (Handspring comes to mind) and the number and variety of devices was steadily increasing.
Last week Stephen Schenck posted an article describing how RIM CEO Thorsten Heins seriously considered dropping their own OS in favor of Android.
With development costs for RIM’s own operating system skyrocketing trying to keep up with other smartphone platforms, why would Heins have considered Android over some other OS? Like Palm of old, RIM was faced with the age-old “fork in the road” decision to make: should they double-down on the Blackberry OS, or should they go with Android?
How many viable smartphone OSes can you think of off the top of your head? Apple’s iOS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone, and Google’s Android, right? How many of those a can be licensed by manufacturers? (I’ll give you a hint: not iOS.)
Some would argue that before version 7.5, Windows Phone wasn’t really an option — it was still too rough around the edges (let us know your thoughts on this in the comments). Android was the more mature option of the two, and closer to what RIM already had experience with, so it would have been the natural choice.
Android already had a solid base of developers, users, and plenty of applications. Android had proven itself in the market and would have saved RIM a significant amount of development time, but…
Why Not Android?
… adopting Android would have made RIM “just another hardware company” in a playing field full of others (HTC, Asus, Samsung, LG, and Motorola, to name a few).
Heins, however, felt that Android couldn’t deliver the kind of experience that BlackBerry users would want. Instead, he noted Android’s proficiency at gaming and the consumption of media. Nothing wrong with that, right? Unfortunately, I get the impression that he thinks all Android users do is play Words with Friends and watch Netflix.
BlackBerry users, in his opinion, are a “less passive group”, and are more interested in conducting business on their phones. Nothing wrong with that, either. As it played out, RIM made the “conscious decision not to go Android”.
Even still, I have to wonder, should RIM have gone with Android? If they had, what cool new products would be running Android today? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credit: (CC) Claytron