With BlackBerry 10, RIM must pull off its greatest trick yet

With BlackBerry 10, RIM must pull off its greatest trick yet

Summary: RIM's new operating system will need to score with consumers and business, tablets and smartphones. It's not going to be an easy feat to achieve.

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RIM has finally named the date: on 30 January it will launch its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, as well as showcase the first two smartphones running on it.

BlackBerry 10 - and the devices that support it - are absolutley critical to RIM's future, and as such the company has been methodically laying the groundwork for the OS' launch for some time now.

Already RIM has said BlackBerry 10 has achieved FIPS 140-2 certification, which means that government agencies have got the necessary security clearance to deploy smartphones running the OS as soon as it becomes available. It's also already testing BlackBerry 10 with 50 carriers and has stepped up its efforts to woo developers - recently opening a new developer centre.

BlackBerry 10
RIM is betting big on BlackBerry 10. Image: Ben Woods

BlackBerry 10 also features the revamped Flow user interface along with new ideas like Hub and Peek which RIM will be hoping make the software more attractive to the increasingly discerning smartphone user.

According to IDC, RIM had a mere 4.3 per cent of the smartphone market in the third quarter of this year - compared to 9.5 per cent a year ago. If it's to succeed in clawing back that lost share, it needs the launch of BlackBerry 10 to go well - and that will be an incredibly complicated trick to pull off.

Getting the buzz back

The competition in the consumer market is cutthroat and, like it or not, RIM has to be able to attract consumers - because there's no such thing as a business handset anymore.

Thanks to the rise of BYOD, it's now consumers - not CIOs or IT managers - that are making a lot of decisions about what smartphones get used in the enterprise. As a result, the next generation of BlackBerry devices - and the software they use - need to look cool, not corporate.

That's where the redesigned Flow UI comes in - with Flow, RIM has to walk a fine line between bringing the BlackBerry user interface up to date and appealing to those consumers now used to the more intuitive likes of iOS, and alienating those who'll have to relearn how to navigate the device.

Keeping the enterprise onside

Keeping IT happy is still vital: RIM can't afford to forget about the enterprise market, because that's where some of its most loyal - and lucrative - customers are to be found.

But even here RIM is facing a new rival. While for the best part of a decade RIM has been the handset maker of choice for the enterprise, that's now potentially under threat with the arrival of Windows Phone 8 devices such as the Lumia 920 which can integrate neatly with Windows 8.

Still, the addition of BlackBerry Balance may help RIM in its mission to appeal to both business and consumer:  it allows users to keep personal apps and information are kept separate from work data, and switch between the profiles easily.

The work profile is encrypted, which should play well with IT, while the personal profile should allow users to get the most out of their smartphone when it's for personal use.

Succeeding on tablets

Another question is whether BlackBerry 10 can re-energise the Playbook. It's no longer enough just to be a handset maker: having a tablet is an essential part of the ecosystem play (as Microsoft has just realised), as well as giving RIM more gear to shift and showing shareholders that it can keep pace with current hardware trends.

RIM's tablet hasn't been a huge success so far and faces tough competition from the ever-present iPad as well as newer rivals like the Surface and Nexus devices. Replacing Playbook OS with BlackBerry 10 and creating a stronger partnership between its tablet and smartphones could help RIM close the gap with its slate rivals.  However, get the tablet side of BlackBerry 10 wrong, and RIM will curse the device to more years of irrelevance and weak sales.

What about the date?

January 30 is earlier than some expected - but it means RIM misses out on the Christmas rush, giving its rivals on the consumer side that little bit longer the entrench their positions.

True, most of RIM's enterprise customers may be happy to wait, as corporate procurement runs on a completely different timeline to the consumer world.

Really, by setting a date for the launch of the operating system now, more than two months ahead of time, what RIM is hoping is that it will not be forgotten under the avalanche of Windows Phone 8, iPhone and Android announcements. Setting a date may keep the industry from forgetting about RIM, but it will be quality of BlackBerry 10 that will decide its fate.

With BlackBerry 10, RIM must pull off its greatest trick yet - convincing the world that it is still relevant.

Topics: BlackBerry, Smartphones

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23 comments
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  • So the CEO laughed at Windows Phone, now copies it!

    If it comes from Microsoft it is always copied, but if it comes from us then its innovation!
    ninjacut
    • Copies Windows?

      It's perfectly fine that you are not a Blackberry fan, but I would suggest you go to some sites like "Crackberry", BBOS or N4BB to see the evolution of BB 10. If anything Windows "metro" is a copy of BB 10 and not a very functional on at that.
      tonyrenier
  • BB10 phones look nice so far

    but the playbook has been a massive failure. enterprise wants a larger device they can use for mobile work, not a 7 inch couch surfing device for checking email. and it was a huge waste of resources to re-release the playbook with the same outdated specs this year, just with 3G added.
    theoilman
    • You're confused

      @theoilman

      The PlayBook wasn't exactly a failure -- it sold better than just about every other non-Apple tablet at the time, outperforming the flagship Android tablets. It was only a failure in the sense that it didn't sell as well as projected.

      Developer support is there now, due to no small effort on RIMs part to produce excellent tools, incentives, and support for developers. As a direct consequence and the app catalog is growing with more quality apps being released every day.

      As for the specs being outdated, I urge you to compare the specs of the PlayBook and new PlayBook 3G to Apples latest tablet offerings. You'll find that it is hardly outdated! (Also, there is more to the new 3G version that just 3G.)

      On the 7" front, you'll find that the market has spoken and 7" tablets are what users want -- both consumers and business users. The larger form-factors dramatically decrease portability, an essential feature of any tablet. Even Apple has caught on to this and is offering a tablet in that size range.

      Ultimately, we won't know until 1Q13 how well BB10 will do in the market, but it's looking like a game-changing product. BlackBerry 10 is trending worldwide on twitter right now, so there is some excitement about the product brewing. I'm certainly looking forward to it.
      recompile
      • everyone knows iPad mini has crap specs

        compared to the iPad 3 or 4 the playbook is a joke though spec wise. and the real joke is that the specs ARE a year old- RIM didn't even bother to try to make it better besides the 3G. I was more saying failure in actually being a good tablet, but the sales were fairly lackluster too. remember that RIM had to discount the tablet by an insane margin (and ended up taking a huge loss on it financially- almost $500 million at the end of last year) to move them out the door.

        and I stick by what I said on the 7" form factor. consumers want 7". people doing work want 10"+. the market is skewed to 7" right now because although business people want to use tablets, they generally don't find them at all useful yet in the workplace, and just buy 7 inchers for their families.
        theoilman
  • Good Timing

    The Blackberry Tablet was a failure because it's lack of apps and developer support. I agree that a 10 inch Blackberry would have gone a longer way.

    I'm starting to think a 2013 release is advantageous to Blackberry. They will be able to create demand and excitement without having to compete with another company's big release. They need an 'open' area of time to allow word of mouth to grow. The time is ripe for an alternative to Android and Apple and blackberry 10 does have some very unique and cool features. The Windows 8 phone is NOT creating the demand Microsoft would like because the 'metro' look is unappealing.
    celebalex@...
    • Metro' look is unappealing?

      To be honest, Android has that "been there done that ho-hum" look. The fact is is that it's creating enough of a demand for carriers and manufacturers to want to stock it on actual quality phones.

      Even the CEO of Motorola (owned by Android's owner Google) said that "Windows 8 is a possibility down the road if Motorola could have a more equitable positon vis-a-vis Nokia in the Windows ecosystem"

      The more it's out there the more it will be accepted. Blackberry is not talked about all that much anymore, not with the reverence it once had. I agree that the time is ripe for an alternative to Android and Apple, but I see that as Windows 8, but not Blackberry.
      William Farrel
      • it is unappealing

        seriously, anyone out there who would answer honestly would say the same thing.

        The only reason Windows Phone and Surface WILL succeed is because of the windows environment and the usability of having one platform run on multiple devices. I would highly question any assertion that the Windows Mobile platform would reach the levels android enjoys though. It will reach enough market because of Windows. As very FUGLY as the metro look is, and it is, it was smart to make the newest windows a part of the same platform. This speaks nothing for Windows 8 though because again, windows 7 is 100 times better in usability and appearance.

        Android to you may seem ho hum, but that is obvious bias because Android OS is IMO the best of all worlds, beautiful, useable, techy, great for phones without having 100% icons like Iphone or even windows mobile.
        brad1000
        • I disagree

          I see nothing visualy appealing about Android phones.
          And I feel the same about Windows Phone 7 beautiful, useable, and great for phones.

          I'm anxious to get Windows 8 phone when my contract expires in 4 months.
          William Farrel
  • Playbook a success

    The Playbook did meet sales expectations, its deemed a failure when people compare it to Apples sales figures.

    The Playbook layed the groundwork for BB10, including app development, can you imagine releasing BB10 with a fraction of the current apps available, the Playbook deserves the credit for building the app ecosystem before the phone release.
    pfezziwig
    • to whom?

      blackberry is dead. they are just prolonging the inevitable
      brad1000
  • Too little...

    ...too late.
    Playdrv4me
    • I think I'm with you.

      I want them to succeed but they always seem like they are playing from behind. Microsoft and to a lesser degree Android and iOS are edging toward full OS on a tablet. BB feels late.
      redhaven
  • RIM is in a good position

    Apparently iPhone5 has not been the hit that everyone was expecting to be and the iPad is to follow. It seems that people are starting to lose interest in the outdated OS. I believe BB10 is in a very good position to make a significant impression once released. People are ready for something new and innovative.
    nehmeg
    • RIM is no more

      RIM is as good as AOL. Anyone use AOL anymore??? The only people who are probably going to use RIM are RIM current users. I hate troubleshooting BB Manager Software, it is the WORST. Everytime it would give an error while sync it would be some generic error code. The BB tech support response would be becuase it is Windows XP!!! The OS that is probably dominates the PC office enviroment.

      Good thing the company I work for switched over to a smartphone.
      lares3k
  • BB10 will be DOA

    I just don't see what they could possibly offer that will compel people to abandon their Android/ios6 device. I think Microsoft has the same mobile problem but they have program lines to fall back on.

    RIM would have to offer something that's at least 12 months ahead of everyone else to get people to switch. It's not going to happen.
    alsw
    • BB10 will be 12 months ahead

      BB10 will be 12 months ahead of the competition.
      nehmeg
  • Blackberry 10: Pretty Cool

    Long-time droid user (using a Samsung 16GB Galaxy S3), but getting tired of having to go through so many steps to do basic things, can't end one call when another one comes in, call sound quality is fairly poor, and having issues with it locking-up. (Stock email app. sucked: had to load Aqua Mail, which works great but costs a few bucks.)

    Hub, Flow and Peek look interesting: I like the idea of getting to apps quicker. (Calendar looks lame, though.) Hope RIMM improves the camera with the next version also.

    There is still plenty of room for another mobile OS: I like the stability and security of QNX, so will be very interested in RIMMs offerings.
    OutsideLookingIn
  • Stabilize, then grow

    I see RIM's main goal as stabilizing their customer base. Then, over the next few years, start to grow back in the North American market.
    Their new product will be every bit as up to date as their competitors and people still consider RIM to be one of the top smartphone makers.
    Of course, their current product line is dated but who looks at past product lines when buying a new TV or computer? Why would you look at previous versions of their smartphone line if you are considering buying their new product?
    As for apps, there will be over 100,000 apps. They may be missing some that American consider vital, like, for some reason, Netflix, but can't you watch that on your iPad and use your phone for other things.
    I wonder if the availability of tablets makes apps like Netflix that much less important for phones.
    I also think companies can now tell their employees that they have to use more secure phones like BB10 and Windows 8 phones since their User Experience will be equal to or better than the alternatives and there is now no reason to sacrifice security.
    Susan Antony
  • Too late

    As much as I hate to say it, they are too late here in US. Our company has switched from BES to Good and apple phones. Even though it cost more (BYOD is a joke) we had FAR too much pressure from the executives wanting their iphones. RIM needed to put out 10 last summer.

    My playbook has been a joy to use.
    harrim47