Opinion: Not too little, but uncertainty remains over whether BlackBerry 10 is too late
Relying on strong carrier support to build base
They say it's better to be best than to be first. But given RIM (as was) originally planned to launch BlackBerry 10 in September 2012, it could be argued that it's stretching the time-logic of that statement to breaking point.
Of the four main mobile phone manufacturers, BlackBerry (it dropped the RIM moniker today) is last to market, and last by some distance.
Apple is on the sixth major update of its mobile OS, while Android is on four (at least). Microsoft has had a couple of attempts as well.
The opportunity for BlackBerry remains in play, however.
First impressions with the key launch device (Z10) and software suggest it makes iOS look old (but doesn't everything?), while providing a more integrated solution than Android. Windows Phone remains its own thing, but if BlackBerry's social Hub concept works as demonstrated, it could make Live Tiles seems positively square.
Playing with the big boys
Of course, much of the appeal of BlackBerry remains with the enterprise and corporate space. As I write this article in Heathrow airport, I am surrounded by BlackBerry users. The vodka-swilling Frenchman next to has two identical devices. (And as it edit this article in a different location, yes, there's another European businessmen with two BlackBerry phones spread over his table).
Personally I can't judge the likelihood of BB10's success in this space, but Android and Windows aren't going to get into that market in force anytime soon.
More important for BlackBerry's overall success, however, is the key issue of the power of the operators.
With the rise of Apple, and Samsung, we've all forgotten that operators remain sleeping giants in the mobile space. Maybe they are comatosed, never to awaken (it is hard to get a sensible word out of them), but the fact that the Z10 is available right now in the UK with all UK operators suggests that these billion-dollar companies have had enough of Apple stealing their cake.
Lots of companies, lots of marketing
Aside from countries such as the US, Korea, Japan and China, which are already embedded into Android (and some iOS), operators are going to giving away these BlackBerry devices (with a contract or high data tariffs, of course).
As CEO Thorsten Heins explained at the New York BlackBerry 10 launch, it has 650 carrier partners in 175 countries, and 110 carriers are testing BlackBerry 10 already.
Indeed, rumours suggest that post-testing, operators have been increasing their device pre-orders, with even the recalcitrant US carriers deciding to go to market faster than they originally thought.
More positive signs come from the support of the developer community. Getting Microsoft-owned Skype onboard was the big surprise, but there are 70,000 other apps including some key game developers; Rovio, Gameloft, Madfinger, Zeptolab, Halfbrick etc.
Of course, they are just porting over their existing games.
But given BlackBerry 10's support from tools providers like Marmalade and Unity, not to mention its best-in-class native status in terms of OpenGL ES implementation, the only reason developers won't be releasing on BlackBerry 10 longterm will be because it's not selling; exactly the same issue with its direct competitor for the 'third place slot' Microsoft/Nokia.
Aside from all these arguments, the key one remains user reaction.
As demonstrated through the long transition from BlackBerry 7 to BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry continues to be a strong consumer brand in many places in the world (not the US, granted). Everyone, myself included, expected the company to pancake following the September 2012 delay, losing subscribers and perhaps even running out of cash in the process.
That just didn't happen. User numbers continued to grow, if slightly, while early, brutal, restructuring managed to ensure the company operated within its means.
This suggests that, with strong operator support, BlackBerry can now focus on converting its existing users over to the new platform.
One of the big misconceptions of critics (often the press) is BlackBerry needs to steal iPhone and Android users. To secure its longterm future, it will - of course - but not right now.
Right now, it needs to preach heartily to the choir, and enthuse its existing audience. It wasn't that long ago that we called it CrackBerry, remember?
The stopped clock
And, perhaps the irony of BlackBerry being so late to the smartphone party, is that the timing now isn't so bad.
Apple has lost the cutting-edge in terms of devices (its core) and software. Samsung's hardware is amazing, but Android as an OS still hasn't thrown off its geeky genesis, while Microsoft has a long game to play to get the world to fall in love with Live Tiles.
Conclusion - there's definitely a space for a new contender - a fourth way - if even if ends up just a 'couldhavebeen'.
And, in that sense, BlackBerry's slow attempt to pull itself up by its bootstraps is good for the entire industry, including game developers. After all, you're all going cross platform now (or you should be), so another platform is just another opportunity to get more users, and generate more revenue.
But if you don't want that, I suggest you lack nothing less than ambition itself.
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Keith Andrew | 08:46 - 31 January 2013
She came across we.. What's happened to you? :)
Jon Jordan | 02:12 - 31 January 2013
I though Ms Keys came across very well. I think that's just a marketing angle, not a specific chasing iOS-move.
Keith Andrew | 22:29 - 30 January 2013
I wonder if BlackBerry is aware it doesn't need to chase iOS's tail, as you suggest.
The bizarre Alicia Keys announcement would suggest not.
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