No easy pickings for BlackBerry

Summary:Don't write it off yet, but BlackBerry has a tough fight — not just to win share, but also to convince people to choose a proprietary operating system.

It's a last-ditch effort for BlackBerry: The BlackBerry 10 will make or break the company, and it all depends on a massive shift in market share from iOS and Android.

It's not totally impossible. If we look at the US just two years ago, three operating systems — iOS, Android, and BlackBerry — each held virtually one third of the browsing market. It's possible that we could see that trend reversed, but, given the public's fickle nature, it's a big ask.

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Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet

These figures come from StatCounter.com, which tracks visitors to millions of websites, so the share represents the proportion of web traffic, not the market share for devices. That's why Symbian hardly ranks; many people have had Nokia phones, but never got the hang of using them to surf the web.

The fight for BlackBerry is going to be tougher in Australia than practically anywhere else. Its moment in the sun here was very short lived, and was quickly overtaken by a love of all things Apple. Even Android is struggling to play catchup, although it has started to gain more traction lately — and devices like the new Samsung Galaxy S IV will help.

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Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet

Yet, this fascination with the iPhone is an enigma. Apple has convinced us to sign up to an entire ecosystem; convenient, yes, but highly restrictive when it comes to choice. It's only a matter of time before newer devices replicate and enhance that interoperability, without us committing to the one brand.

Price is a factor, of course. Apple liked to pitch itself at the premium end of the market, but even that's starting to change. As competition rises, it's in amongst the rest of the pack. Vodafone, for example, is offering an iPhone 4 free on a 24-month AU$30 plan. Compare that to the new BlackBerry, which costs AU$432 over a 24-month AU$39 plan from Optus. For AU$3 more per month, I can pick up the Samsung Galaxy S III 4G, and access the wealth of apps built for Android devices.

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Image: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet

BlackBerry has two fights: The first is to convince people to avoid the drift to the open Android platform, and the second is to convince users that its ecosystem is better than Apple's. It's not hard to imagine that Apple's share will fall in Australia (at some point), but it's a wild hope to assume that those customers will switch to another proprietary platform. They will have learned their lesson. Windows, anyone?

The BlackBerry Z10 is now available for pre-order. I wonder if that's so it can figure out whether it's worth shipping any.

Topics: Mobile OS, Australia, BlackBerry

About

Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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