Once the industry leader in the smartphone space, BlackBerry, which used to be known as Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY), quickly fell from grace as giants Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) swooped in with innovative and desirable devices. This has left RIMM with a crumbling market position, despite some very loyal fans. The big question is if its new BlackBerry 10 operating system will turn the tide and give it a new lease on life.
Research In Motion was founded by two very strong willed men. While this worked well in getting the company off the ground and creating what was, at the time, a market moving product, it wound up costing the company its leadership role. Indeed, the BlackBerry, as the company’s phones are called, was the first to allow easy and highly secure email access.
That may seem quaint in a world where texting and tweeting have taken over for email as the hot communication tool, but when the BlackBerry came out it was nothing short of revolutionary. Even the company’s use of a full keyboard on the device was a big plus. However, management’s insistence on sticking to that particular feature turned into a negative as Apple and Google products quickly changed what customers wanted.
The diehard attitude that got the company to the top, then, is what brought it low, in the end. After a management change, the company is looking to revamp its core product to offer a more modern option to customers. This is a make or break moment for the company.
The New Device
The BlackBerry 10, or BB10 as some are calling it, isn’t a life altering advance in the smart phone space. However, it is an important modernization of the BlackBerry that happens to include some nifty new features and keeps some of the company’s distinguishing traits. At the very least, it seems like a good start.
For example, the new operating system is being launched with a touch screen, something the company simply didn’t pull off well before. Reviews are calling the software sleek and fast, which is good since both Apple and Google offer top-notch operating systems. These attributes, however, are just table stakes since anything less couldn’t compete.
One new feature that is likely to be very well received, and perhaps push competitors to come up with similar functionality, is BlackBerry 10’s ability to separate work from pleasure. BlackBerry Balance addresses a big issue with both the company’s smart phone competitors and its own devices. The former tend to be geared more toward personal lives, while BlackBerries had lingered too long on the business side. Providing a “balance” between the two that also keeps them separate is a nice addition.
The BlackBerry will also be sold with a keyboard in addition to models with a touch screen. This should keep fans of the keyboard, a core user group, very happy. Research in Motion will also continue to boast some of the best data protection in the business, which will be appeasing to customers, particularly on the business side.
On the downside, BlackBerries don’t have the same number of applications. Apple and Google have both worked hard to create large and vibrant application markets. While BlackBerry will have a notable number, it probably will never reach the scale offered by its competitors. That will be a long-term negative.