BlackBerry is a confusing company these days, which makes it a natural subject for the Weekend Debate. BlackBerry has gone through a few iterations while reinventing itself. We have seen BB10, physical keyboards, and most recently, a jump to Android. It’s this last point that I want to take a look at as we look into 2016 and try to determine just what BlackBerry has up its sleeve for this. Specifically, is it time to kill off BB10 and go all in with Android?
Right off the bat this seems like an easy answer. Of course it should. But when you look more closely, the waters get muddied which is just the way we weekend debaters like our waters. Nice and cloudy and unclear. Android is a powerful OS which has seen the rise of dozens of OEMs under its umbrella. Why not join the rising tide of Android, even if BlackBerry is a bit late to this particular party?
Android offers a ton of support from Google and robust ecosystem that is as good or better than all other competitors. There is nary a function that you could want for a smartphone that isn’t already riding in an app somewhere. While it’s true that BB10 does offer side-loading of Android apps, that’s never a good solution. Android makes things nice and easy for customers, which is what you really want to do when you’re an up and comer.
Plus, Android is becoming more and more security conscious with every iteration. Already we’re seeing monthly updates to most Android phones making them safer and more secure with every patch. Instead of having to worry about operating system upgrades, BlackBerry can focus more on the security aspect of the OS, since Google will handle the OS itself, freeing up resources to develop better software to run on the phone.
Plus, BlackBerry has already put a lot of work integrating its services and concepts into Android, making it a very acceptable substitute to BB10 in many ways. BlackBerry has even pushed Android forward with some of its innovations – the BlackBerry Hub, Productivity Tab, and swiping up on icons to get a widget view. All really cool stuff, that Google would be wise to learn from, copy or outright steal.
But it’s that kind of stuff, and more specifically its performance on Android that gives one pause when contemplating OS-icide. After all, these features which are so cool on Android, especially the BlackBerry Hub, work a lot better on BB10 than they do on Android. BlackBerry’s additions to Android are pretty inconsistent across the BlackBerry Android experience. So much so, that when one thinks about the BlackBerry Priv, talking about the software experience is almost universally shudder-inducing.
BB10 on the other hand offers a very nice, consistent, and – important for BlackBerry users – productive experience. Android isn’t a perfect OS, not by any stretch, and neither is BB10 for that matter. But BB10 is aged enough that many of it’s bugs and peccadillos have been worked out over the years. Trying to cram some favorite BB10 features onto Android didn’t really go all that well. Does BlackBerry have the staying power to keep developing this experience when it already has a viable platform to go with?
Stand out in a crowd
What’s more, in a world where every OEM is seeking any new way – any new way at all – to stand out in a crowd of Android phones, BlackBerry already has a leg up in that it has its own ecosystem. This is the very definition of differentiation, much more than Huawei developing its own new “Mategory” of phone. If you want to define a new category, you need to do more than just tapping with your knuckle. You need a whole new paradigm, a new way of doing things. BlackBerry has that, and it would be a shame to throw it away.
And finally, let’s not forget the BlackBerry fans themselves who may not necessarily want an Android experience. If I learned anything reporting on BlackBerry this past year, it’s that BlackBerry still has a vigorous following of users that love BlackBerry and BB10 and would not so readily accept a half-baked substitute like Android. These users love their phones and have found the operating system they need in BB10, and may not like making the jump to Android and re-learning a whole new set of quirks.
So what do you think? Should BlackBerry finally lay BB10 to rest and jump into the pool with the rest of the Andorid OEMs? Should it make YAAP (yet another android phone)? Or should BlackBerry continue to build on its struggling operating system to make it better and more mature? Perhaps it should do both? Can BlackBerry afford to keep poking away with phone after phone to keep its OS alive? I’d particularly like to hear from you IT folk out there who are probably working with these devices still in a corporate environment. How do you feel about BlackBerry and its future with BB10, Android or both? Sound off below, and let’s see if we can figure this out.