BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 starting over: Advantage RIM

BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 starting over: Advantage RIM

Summary: Microsoft's decision to base Windows Phone on WinRT may give RIM an advantage with BlackBerry 10.


It is no secret that the future BlackBerry 10 is likely RIM's last great hope. The company is down on the ropes by anyone's measure, and everything is riding on market acceptance of BlackBerry 10. RIM is in effect starting over with the next version of its OS, and it isn't the only platform doing so.

Microsoft has been pulling out all the stops to get Windows Phone rolling in the mobile space, and by the numbers it hasn't worked. Even with a billion dollar deal with Nokia to buy its way into the market, Windows Phone has only garnered 2 - 3 percent market share, and it doesn't look to improve much until the next big version, Windows Phone 8.

Related: BlackBerry Dev Alpha device and BB World demos show RIM isn’t out of the game yet | RIM’s challenge: Platforms don’t sell, gadgets do | First look: BB 10 | BlackBerry 10: Best feature nobody's talking about

Strangely, Microsoft is in effect starting over with Windows Phone 8, as the underlying platform is changing at the core. Windows Phone 8 is changing to merge it with Windows 8 from a developer's standpoint. The silent decision to do away with Silverlight and XNA APIs in favor of WinRT has a dramatic impact on Windows Phone. Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott sums it up perfectly:

"Yes, Windows Phone 8 will retain the Windows Phone name, and yes, it will run “legacy” Windows Phone 7.x apps, those apps that were written in Silverlight or the game-centric XNA APIs. But with Silverlight and XNA both silently cancelled deep within Microsoft’s ever-reimagined corporate hulk, the move to a variation of WinRT means that Windows Phone is starting over again. That mean more work for developers who, let’s face it, haven’t really had much incentive to adopt this platform in the first place."

Read that passage again and think about it for a moment. All current Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows Phone 8, but will be "legacy" apps. They will not be true Windows Phone 8 apps, and for that to change developers must be willing to make a concerted effort to recode them into "real" apps for the new version and all versions going forward.

As Thurrott said, the app situation has Windows Phone "starting over", which puts it in roughly the same situation as RIM will be with BlackBerry 10. Put another way, the Windows Phone advantage for apps will be largely wiped out and BlackBerry 10 will be starting with a more level playing field with Windows Phone.

Combine the restarting ecosystem of both platforms with the declining Windows Phone installed user base and BlackBerry 10 starts to look like a viable competitor. The declining user base for Windows Phone has happened while Microsoft has spent hundreds of millions on buying an entry in that market, which speaks volumes.

It is important to note that the current BlackBerry market share is at least three times that of Windows Phone currently. Even while RIM's market share continues to decline along with Microsoft's, it should still give RIM a better starting position with BlackBerry 10 than Windows Phone 8, especially when you note that a good portion of that share is a zealous core of BlackBerry enthusiasts. BlackBerry 10 looks to be the modern, consumer-centric version of the BlackBerry that can take it to the next level.

If RIM can get developers busy working on apps for BlackBerry 10 now, it can jump-start the ecosystem that is so important for success. If BlackBerry 10 incorporates the ability to run Android apps as the PlayBook currently does, RIM would even have a tremendous advantage. As noted, the Microsoft decision to reboot the Windows Phone app situation works to RIM's favor as it helps wipe out the app lead it would otherwise enjoy.

It is no sure thing that RIM will survive its crisis, giving BlackBerry 10 a decent chance for success. No question the task ahead for RIM is monumental. If it can survive long enough, don't be surprised if BlackBerry 10 gives Windows Phone 8 a decent, perhaps impressive run for the money.

If that happens Microsoft can only blame itself for the decision to throw away a lot of its work on Windows Phone to start over with Windows Phone 8. To quote Thurrott, "is time running out for Windows Phone"?

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, BlackBerry, Software, Windows

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  • Not so sure - these all look good on the drawing board and demo stage

    James I think theoretically anything is possible - however I cannot stop thinking back to CES 2009 when Palm Pre was unveiled to gushing reviews.

    We know how that ended - and to a large extent why.

    Lesson learned? Until the product ships and we can see the performance (both hardware and software) it's very risky to predict success.
  • ...

    Do your job properly.......

    The WINDOWS PHONE userbase is not shrinking.... the WINDOWS MOBILE userbase is shrinking.

    If windows 8 apps run on windows phone 8, its not a hard choice for developers to decide to code for windows and not BB.

    Also, how long did it take for Android to get widespread adoption? At least a year, maybe more.
    • Current Windows Phones (and Lumias) will be isolated

      Windows Phone has seen declines in sales since it debuted in 2010. At 2%, there's not much more to decline!

      I'd expect further declines, when people realize that the Lumia Windows Phones they just bought are on a platform about to end. WP7 apps will be isolated into a different marketplace from WP8 apps.
      • Windows Phone decline?

        How can Windows Phone sales decline when they effectively started at 0% and now at 2%? Sure enough the growth has been very slow after 18 months but all stats show it rising than declining. Its such a shame Microsoft did not focus on business as the stats show there are 4% of Windows Mobile users and declining. If only MS brought the Mango features sooner with device encryption and strong EAS support businesses would have bought into WP thus increasing market share.
      • There is growth

        Slow growth granted but growth just the same.
    • James Kendrick's usual anti-Microsoft garbage analysis

      This just another one of James Kendrick's anti-Microsoft drivel, written to generate user clicks. Kendrick makes no distinction between Windows Mobile and Windows Phone, and then comes to the erroneous conclusion that Windows Phone is losing market share. Kendrick conveniently ignores many reports, that Nokia is barely keeping up with orders for its Nokia Lumia 900 phones. Kendrick cherry picks the most negative MS news to make his arguments, and cares little about the quality of his arguments. Kendrick is more of a anti-Microsoft gossip blogger.

      As for the notion that MS is starting over with Windows Phone, this may be true, but only from a developer perspective. Also to .Net developers, Windows Phone 8 will seem like a slight restructuring of the Windows Phone's APIs, since Windows Phone 7.x apps can run on Windows 8 with only minor changes. Therefore the restructuring of Windows Phone will have a minimum impact on current Windows Phone apps, but will allow developers of these same apps, to leverage their apps across Windows Phone, Windows, and possibly the new Xbox. Therefore Windows Phone 8 will be overall very positive for Windows ecosystem developers.

      How can I put this nicely? Blackberry is a dead man walking. HP produced a much more appealing revision to the Palm OS, but could not survive in the smartphone market, because it could not withstand the inertia of the iOS and Android ecosystems. There is no way tiny, little Blackberry will fare any better. Blackberry has to decide to close up shop, or go with Windows Phone or Android. Given that Samsung seems to be the only one making money from Android, Blackberry probably needs to make a bet on Windows Phone - which is finally taking off after a serious committment from Nokia - or just break up the company and sell it off.
      P. Douglas
      • Blind Guy Talking about Daylight

        James hasn't ever used WP for any extended period of time, even though he promised on Cellphones & Smartphones on Mar 15:

        I throw down the challenge


        15th Mar

        Use NO OTHER phone for a month and report in on the experience. I really want to get over my lackadaisical feeling about Windows Phone, and I'm counting on you to help me.

        Your pick why he is refusing to own up to his promise.

        UPDATE: My apologies, it sounds like I misunderstood you - you weren't really offering to research the material you were writing about but layed the work on someone else. I have my doubts that Matt's expertise will do much to help your lackadaisicalness.
      • Agreed

        Windows Phone has enough problems, without Kendrick making up things. Windows Mobile is declining, since you cannot buy a new phone that I know of with it. The chart he references is by company, not by OS. I'll bet that the iOS 3 user base is also shrinking, as well as the Android 1.6 user base.

        Windows Phone 7 isn't just an upgrade. It is so different that loving Windows Mobile doesn't really mean anything when chosing to upgrade your phone.

        Now, unlike a few here (or at least it seems this way), I am not trying to paint a rosy picture for Microsoft or Windows Phone. There is still a huge mountain to climb, but the shrinking user base is less of a problem that Kendrick and others seem to think.

        To draw an analogy...Pontiac's user base is shrinking. Why? Because Pontiac does not exist anymore. Now, if GM's user base were also shrinking, that would be a problem, but to sound the alarm because not all Pontiac owners are buying new GM cars would be silly, and that is the equivalent to what is happening.

        Microsoft is building a new user base. When I see evidence of how Windows Phone is doing, without Windows Mobile data loaded in, then we can draw real conclusions.
    • Get back to work!

      There are some seriously insecure people at Microsoft these days. Just look at the up-ratings and down-ratings on this thread. You can read stories all day on ZDNet, on subjects from hybrid storage to mobile Christians, and you will not see comments with anywhere near as many votes -- either way -- as the ones that poke the Microsoft Munchkins.

      Here's a company that's late to market with phone features, a tablet OS, and more. What are their employees doing? Trying to influence the rankings of ZDNet comments. No wonder everything is late.
      Robert Hahn
    • I disagree!

      Agreed...Windows Phone is gaining more market share overseas and the Lumia Line is alright in the US. This platform is starting to gain some traction and I think Windows 8 will only help. If you're a DEV you'd be a fool not to code for windows 8 and Windows 8 phone because the code will be nearly transferable and you just increased your user base. There are over 400 Million PCs sold each year that's a HUGE user base!
  • No big deal

    For developers who are now familiar with Windows 8 metro apps ( PC) would already know that migrating a WP7 app to Win 8 metro apps is no big deal. So converting a WP7 app to Window Phone 8 app should be even more easy. Yes there may be some work involved, but those developers who are in for the long term already know that WP8 is going to be the best platform and its feature complete.

    Skeptics can write whatever they wants, who cares. Telecom operators are already sick of apple, android is a mess with malware and hence the MS platform will be the preferred one
    • Well said

      I read today that WP7 numbers went from about 3% to 6% of smartphone sales in German over the last three months. (

      Tech people seem to forget that they write to an audience that likely walks out of a box store with what they intended and not what the salesperson pushed on them. The vast majority of the population, which has no interest in reading this type of news, walks out with what the carrier wants them to buy. Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon have all said they plan to push the heck out of WP8, yet remain practically silent on BB10. Let's wait to see what exactly is the eventual fall out from the Oracle-Google mess before commenting on Android apps being helpful to an Android-compatible phone... and this won't be truly known for a few months after the case is totally finalized, appealed, and settled.

      Another lame article, James.
      • Not to mention.......

        that the Lumia 900 is flying off of shelves, and is selling out in many places.
      • Verizon?

        I'd like to believe that you're right...
    • No small deal

      I'm a pretty pro-Microsoft developer. I've written three Windows Phone apps, a Windows 8 Metro prototype, and all my web sites rely heavily on ASP. That said, I'm pretty annoyed about this shift to WinRT for Windows Phone 8. It's absolutely not a minor thing and it's going to require a lot of work to update apps of any significant complexity.

      For starters, the move away from .Net means that any .Net libraries used by WP7 apps will need to be replaced. That's no small thing. There are also libraries of Silverlight UI controls for Windows Phone that have been evolving and maturing for almost two years and those will all be incompatible with the new framework, so if you're using any of them (and most apps are) you're out of luck.

      Even more offensive is the story for game developers. If you developed a game on WP7, updating it to WinRT for WP8 is going to require a 100% rewrite of every single line of code from scratch because WinRT doesn't allow graphics-heavy games to be written in C#.

      I generally agree that it'll be a good thing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone to share a framework to make app porting painless, but the fact is the Silverlight and XNA frameworks on WP7 were really, really good. There was absolutely no reason to throw them away and invent WinRT which, by my experience, is nothing more than an inferior imitation anyway.

      Microsoft is moving backwards because Sinofsky was unwilling to use products that were written by a different department within Microsoft, so everything was thrown out so they could write their own versions in-house. That isn't good for developers, consumers, or Microsoft. It's only good for Sinofsky's ego.
  • Both are too far behind...

    To be honest, there's no catching up left to do. Both RIM & Microsoft are too far behind in apps and developers will not focus on them until they have a user base. The user base won't flock there without apps. This is why you get in early while the app situation is still fledgling.
    • ..

      which is why they will share apps between windows 8 and phone 8....
      • Rate me, bro!

        Look at this. Here one of the Munchkins has come in and posted, and two other Munchkins have up-rated his post [i]even though what he says is a total crock[/i]. He's trying to sell the story that all the apps that will run on Windows 8 will run on Windows tablets and Windows phones, when we already know that isn't true. The Munchkins are trying desperately to fuzz-up the difference between Desktop Windows for x86 -- which has tons of apps and always will -- with the Other Thing that Ballmer insists be called "Windows" when it really isn't, where "isn't" means "it doesn't run Windows apps."

        If you call them on this, they immediately pirouette and claim that what they mean is that things written for Metro/RT will run on Desktop Windows for x86, even though only the Tooth Fairy believes that anyone will run Metro on a desktop PC. Yet they seek to spray the undeniable draw of Windows' near-monopoly on desktop PCs onto a market segment where it doesn't matter because no one in Near-Monopoly Space will ever see the RT apps.

        That is BS marketing poop designed to hoodwink developers, who won't be fooled because they're too smart for that.
        Robert Hahn
      • Not doing much better there

        @Robert Hahn

        A Metro/RT app will work just fine in the PC version of Windows 8 whether people choose to spend the majority of the time using the overall Metro UI or not. The OS foundation doesn't disappear because someone flipped the UI switch. So the bit about "write once, deploy everywhere" is reasonably accurate.

        The developer consternation (and there is quite a bit of it) revolves more around existing apps and code and the perceived deprecation of them in the Metro/RT world. For example: Have an app that was built in XNA or Silverlight to support WP7? It will run in Windows 8, but only in "classic" (read: legacy) mode, and it can't be sold directly through the Windows App store (just linked from the store).

        Part of how WP7 got as many developer interested in it as it did was that the dev tools were Silverlight and XNA (C#) which many people are very comfortable with in their I/T careers. So there was an "eh why not make an app" attitude even with the new platform uncertainty.

        Corporate I/T won't even be thinking about Metro for a long time (ever?) and if a developer has to make a choice to learn something new to continue they are more likely to back the winning horse(s).
  • Seriously I thought you would know better: WP8 apps > BB10

    Do you think users care or know what is 'legacy' app or what is 'true' app? I don't think so, an app is an app.
    WP8 starts wtih 80K+ apps, and BB10 starts with nothing.
    When you get your WP8, 80K+ apps are already at your disposal, with the top apps already there (or almost).
    You get your BB10 and... there is nothing to start with, not even the top apps.

    Don't be confused, both BB10 and WP8 are not starting at equal footing, WP8 is 80K+ apps ahead.

    If Windows 7 can run Windows XP applications, would 'real' users care that their application is 'legacy' or if its 'real'? They'll just care that it runs their applications.