While RIM tried to copy emulate the Apple success formula by announcing secretive press conference, and then using said conference to announce the new Touch 9800, it's clear that RIM's new baby was no iPhone killer. But it doesn't matter, because BlackBerrys are still very popular ... but why are they so popular?
CNN's John D. Sutter tries to shed some light on this, and finds three reasons why users love their BlackBerrys:
It turns out, according to a handful of interviews with BlackBerry users, there are three basic reasons: People are addicted to the click-clacking keyboard; they love the blinking red light on the top, which alerts users to new messages; and many just happen to have the phone because it's required for work.
While I don't outright disagree with Sutter's three point reason for all the BlackBerry love, I think RIM's ongoing popularity in the workplace is down to one reason and one reason alone ... it got into the smartphone game early, and offered not just a handset, but an entire communications infrastructure.
Sure, people like the keyboard, but as Apple has proved with the iPhone, a crappy touchscreen keyboard that you can't operate without looking at it and which doesn't offer any kind of tactile feedback is no obstacle to huge sales. And as for that blinking light ... well, if a blinking LED is what separates you from the competition, you got troubles (my old Nokia E71 had a similar flashing light feature that I found annoying).
And RIM is in trouble. When some 58% of your user base is looking to jump ship, you've got problems. Serious problems.
Will the new Touch 9800 save the say? Well, it's certainly a huge departure from the current lineup of BlackBerrys. There's a touch screen, support for apps, a slide out keyboard and stuff. But where the 9800 falls down with me is that rather than find out what BlackBerry users really want (over a period of time perhaps, not just as a knee-jerk reaction), what RIM's done is taken some iPhone concepts (touchscreen, apps, multimedia support and so on) and cobbled a handset together around these ideas. I can't be too hard on RIM since it is doing pretty much the same as every other handset maker out there. But the line between inspiration (or paying homage) and just plain ripping off ideas is getting blurred. Companies such as RIM were once capable of coming up with new and original ideas, but now in the face of Apple all they can seem to do is clone as much as is legally possible.
Will the Touch help save the BlackBerry? That's a tough one to answer. There's enough new stuff on the Touch to both intrigue users and put off existing BlackBerry users. I'm going to reserve judgment until I see the next crop of BlackBerry 6 OS powered handsets.