By Joe Levi | January 31, 2013 2:30 PM
The cat is out of the bag and the new BlackBerry — the company — is here. For whatever reasons, the market didn’t seem to take the news very well and BlackBerry stocks dipped notably. Hopefully the tech world won’t be quite as harsh as Wall Street. Most of us will agree that competition is both good and healthy for the mobile industry. Everyone seems to feed off each other’s successes and learns from the competition’s failures. The end result (ideally) is a better device for each of us, regardless of which platform we’ve adopted in our personal and business lives.
The new BlackBerry — the company, not the device — faces an uphill battle. They’ve been out of the limelight for quite some time and need to come back strong if they’re going to succeed. To help them along the way, BlackBerry can learn a lot from Android, and will hopefully be around for the foreseeable future.
Focus on Strengths
Android’s success is in its openness and, by extension, in its varied offerings. You can get an Android-powered smartphone or tablet in almost any shape, size, color, or form-factor with prices from the very high to moderately low. Android’s strength is its flexibility in this regard. BlackBerry needs to very quickly re-evaluate what the market perceives as its greatest strengths — not what the company thinks, then run toward capitalizing on them.
Ask any BlackBerry user and they’ll tell you one of the major strengths in the past has been their physical keyboard. Although some may see physical buttons as a dying art, many still live and die for the tactile feedback that real buttons give. For some folks emails and texts can be pounded out substantially faster with physical keys than can be done using an on-screen keyboard, regardless of the fancy auto-complete and swiping gestures that abound.
Of course, this is just one example of where BlackBerry can focus on one of their major strengths.
Network outages plagued the “old RIM”. The new BlackBerry has to make sure that never happens again. Sure, “never” is a strong word, but in many circles, RIM is synonymous with “network down”. Apple, Google, and Microsoft have different architectures that are arguably more distributed and redundant than the RIM of old. Whether that’s technologically the case today or not doesn’t matter. RIM got a black eye over and over again when road-warriors were unable to work due to an outage. The new BlackBerry can’t let that happen again.
Android is continually hurt by OEMs and carriers who seemingly abandon fairly new devices, by either never releasing OS updates, or releasing them so slowly that they may as well not have released them at all. In the Android eco-system that’s the nature of the beast. iOS and Windows Phone handle things a bit differently. Apple users, especially, get updates almost immediately, regardless of device or carrier. The new BlackBerry must learn from the frustration of Android customers and offer an OS upgrade path as close to Apple’s as possible if they are to succeed.
Address the App Shortage
We live in the era of smartphones where a phone is more a “personal communicator” and “entertainment device” than it is a “phone”. Sure, it must still make and receive phone calls and texts, but apps are a necessity on today’s mobile devices. Unfortunately, apps aren’t easy to come by for new platforms — just ask Microsoft!
It takes developers some time to develop an app for a new platform, and end-users will be hesitant to change platforms if the apps they want aren’t available. Developers, similarly, aren’t enticed to develop for a new platform if there aren’t a lot of users to download their apps. To get apps you need users. To get users you need apps.
They must do everything they can to woo developers to build for their customers. Some of these enticements must be in letting developers take home more of the money collected per app sale, whereas the other side must be making the development of new (or porting of existing) apps as easy as possible. Apple takes a large chunk of developer’s revenue when compared to Android. Google still takes a fairly large chunk — a US Android developer must charge $1.44 to his users to net $1.00 of positive cash flow per install. The new BlackBerry already faces an uphill battle with the number of apps available for their platform.
All in all, the new BlackBerry has loads of potential. Having a fourth player in the field may seem like a lot, but we’ve seen wonderful things from the old RIM. We can’t wait to see what more the new BlackBerry has in store for us!