Research in Motion rebranded itself as BlackBerry and finally launched its BlackBerry 10 platform, which will make or break the company. How BlackBerry fares going forward will ultimately boil down to one question: Do you believe?
The question became front and center when BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins talked briefly about pricing for the new devices. Pricing will be controlled by carriers, but Heins mentioned $149 with a three-year contract.
My reaction: There's no way I'd bet on BlackBerry for three years in a contract. And that's the big hurdle for BlackBerry as a company. I'm happy to take BlackBerry 10 devices for a short-term relationship/contract, say a year.
BlackBerry has to prove its platform is viable. The details from BlackBerry executives were decent:
- BlackBerry has key apps in the fold, but still needs to beef up.
- The company has its music and video bases covered.
- Heins and the gang had enough enterprise goodies even though BlackBerry Enterprise Server's monetization model may change depending on adoption.
- There are enough new features in BlackBerry 10 to keep the base and perhaps attract new users.
In other words, the setup for BlackBerry is the best it could expect. There's some Apple iPhone fatigue, Samsung hasn't launched the its latest Galaxy phone and CES was quiet on the device front. There will be a new HTC device in February, but RIM has some room to get a head start.
Evercore analyst Mark McKechnie said:
We expect a generally positive reception to the product as a clear improvement over RIMM’s stale product line (the last major platform upgrade was BB7 in August of 2011), but do not expect to gauge consumer demand until the product has been in the channel for 1-2 months.
That consumer demand---not to mention the corporate reception---comes down to faith in the platform. Here's what we know:
- Apple's iOS has a strong ecosystem and viability three years from now isn't a question.
- Android has a strong ecosystem, dominant market share and frequent updates. It'll be here in three years due to Google.
- Windows Phone is a lock in the long run just because Microsoft will spend billions of dollars on the platform to make it work.
BlackBerry could make its platform sing or it could be a division of another company in the future. The average bear may not know the company's balance sheet, but there are some mental gymnastics required to make a big bet.