Featured: Is It Too Late for Blackberry 10? And Can it Beat WP7 for the Third Ecosystem Spot?



Today, the Blackberry OS 10 was unveiled by RIM, and it looks surprisingly good for an OS coming from RIM. The demo hardware also had some high-end specs, like an 1280×768 resolution on a 4.2" display, which obviously means you won't be able to see any pixelation, although it remains to be seen if that kind of resolution will end up in their first BB10 devices this fall (it probably will).


Getting core apps right

RIM still has their work cut out for them by this fall, because they will have to make sure absolutely everything that worked on BB 7 will work on BB10 as well, at least as core apps go, but also other important 3rd party applications that their enterprise customers need. They need to avoid making the mistake they made with Playbook by not offering a native e-mail client at the time of launch. A Blackberry, which is known for e-mail, not having an e-mail client? I'm sure that looking back it seems just as ridiculous to them as it did for us.

Getting developers


Then, they also need to make sure they get as many developers as possible excited for the platform, and get them to make BB10 native apps. If they only have a few hundred apps at launch, people might not be as excited about the new platform. Plus, the momentum matters even more. They need to show that developers are more and more interested to develop for BB10. So how do they get developers interested?

They do it by offering them free devices, by sponsoring some of the big ones, by contacting as many iOS and Android devs as possible, and of course by guaranteeing them that they will sell a lot of BB10 phones at launch. When they launch they need like $200-$300 million worth global launch, or maybe even a $500 million one. Now it's not the time to play it safe. They need to bet big, because if BB10 is not successful, it's over for RIM.

Missed opportunities


In the past I've usually said that they needed to adopt Android. The problem is I knew they would be as stubborn, or even more so than Nokia. That's why early on, I even thought that if all of them didn't want to join Android – HP/Palm, RIM, Nokia, and even Samsung, LG and HTC who wanted alternatives to Android – they could've joined together to adopt ONE other OS. The best option at the time would've been Meego, because it's the only other open source OS that could've competed properly with Android, and be used on anything, just like Android.

But the most important factor would've been that they would all join together with one OS. It would've been the only solution to catch-up to large ecosystems like Android and iOS. WP7 still can't compete with Android in terms of market share, and never will. It's proprietary, they can't do anything to change it, and the market just seems to outright reject it.

Also, RIM has said that they might be interested in licensing BB10. Personally, I think that's a great idea, but they will be too reluctant/arrogant to do it. They will probably want to try it out for themselves at first, and if they are successful, then they won't do it. If they aren't, then they will become desperate and do it. But as I mentioned above, that's the wrong attitude. There's no time left to play it safe. They need to take the right decisions right now.


Beating WP7 for third spot

The WP7 ecosystem has a pretty big lead in apps compared to any other ecosystem besides Android and iOS, but in terms of actual units in the market, it's doing much more poorly, and it has had only 2% market share for a year and a half now. Plus, companies are abandoning it, whether by outright leaving the ecosystem like LG did, or simply not caring too much to push their devices hard in the market, like HTC and Samsung. Nokia is also on a death spiral now, and the only way they will survive is if they get acquired. WP7 won't return them to their former glory, or even to profitability.

RIM is still in a better position than Nokia right now. That's because Nokia has been mostly a consumer-oriented company, while RIM has been mostly an enterprise-oriented company, so Nokia started losing market share much earlier than RIM, because consumers moved on to something else a lot sooner than enterprise customers. If they start big and impress enterprise customers but also consumers with their new BB10 phones, they could regain their top 3 position as an ecosystem.


Naming and conclusion

I think the name they chose for the platform – Blackberry 10 – is perfect. I don't usually agree with using old names when moving to something completely new, like I didn't agree with WP7 retaining the name Windows in it, when it's so consumer oriented, and the consumers never even liked Windows Mobile before it. So it's not like the Windows branding was helping them. They could've used something like Tiles or Xbox Phone, which would've connected a lot better with consumers.

But Blackberry 10 is a good name, because it maintains the Blackberry name, which is still liked by enterprise folks but also by young people who are using BBM heavily in some countries, and the 10 number is also a round number that suggests both maturity and a new beginning.


So although I would've preferred RIM to use Android, I think BB10 looks good,  the QNX core is solid and it might bring some new innovations into the market. They are certainly showing that they want to do some of their own things and follow their own path. But whatever they do, they need to be bold and bet big on it, because this is their last chance.