There is really a market for enterprise grade devices with great keyboards, worldwide roaming (flat-rate, <60$ for everywhere mobile internet with most carriers), hardened security and real time push services.
They just have to get their sh*t right. For example: I got my first Blackberry 3 years ago and they had all the promises for threaded emails and two-way syncing (marking mails as read when I read them on other devices). And… no news over there after so much time.
It's just a shame that years and years after they can't even figure the simplest things, like a better user experience and better user experience (most users don't ever get to know about how to get most of their phone, with keyboard shortcuts and real multitasking because of how hard is everything to figure out).
Of course they will have to lay off people, open their platform a lot more and work hard, but I don't think they even have a clue of where they should hit.
The sad thing is that even their users know… It's probably their stupid corporative system that will sink them.
This is exactly what you won't get from a company that insists on pandering to the enterprise. The bean counters and IT departments that make purchasing decisions don't care about UX. you need to take a consumer-first product and upgrade it to work in the enterprise networks if you want UX. and that's exactly why android and iOS have been outpacing BB lately - they built their devices into something that people want, not just something that corporations want.
A better user experience is simple for users but requires non-trivial levels of design expertise, direction and buy-in from leadership. It's not at all surprising to me that in a heavily corporate environment with two CEOs, this would be an impossible needle to thread.
UX is actually an interesting story at RIM. They made some interesting strides and had a nice empirically based approach towards improving the UX. Upon the acquisition of TaT, though, it appears they've ditched that approach and are giving the designers free reigns - very similar to what Google did with their recent redesign IMO.
But I still don't see a vast chasm of improvement over blackberry UX. I suppose I'd have to watch people using the two devices. I'm sure others have studied this to death but I've never seen a well conducted UX contrast study available online.
It doesn't remember open websites for more than 10 minutes after the browser is closed, and after using Mobile Safari, it's like using a device with alzheimers.
The default menu/home screen is just dreadful, filled with pointless sliding panels going up and down, left and right, by default with lots of redundant icons, but not adding anything useful, just triggering often and accidentally.
There is an extremely fine distinction between pressing the back button (which does one thing), and pressing and holding it (which does another thing). It's way too easy to accidentally press for too long.
The much vaunted messaging abilities are a mess - email is empty because I have no POP accounts, messages doesn't contain my messages, Text Messages does, and my email is in "Desktop". I set it up this way to stop it being even worse and pushing all kinds of mixed message types into one list (who wants that?!), and that (by default) puts the top item in the list as the message I've just sent. On a screen which shows 5 things, the least important is the one I've just finished dealing with.
The web browser is poor compared to mobile safari. I always have to fight what I want (click on a link) with what it wants (needlessly zoom in more and more and more). Resizing with gestures is finnicky - it will often resize as I want, then undo to suit itself.
The trackpad replacement to the thumb-ball is horrible. It is awfully sensitive in one sense (jumping long distances when I'm not meaning to touch it) and awfully insensitive in another sense (often have to move my thumb over it several times before it registers at all).
The 'convenience' key is in such an inconvenient place I've had to disable it because I kept pressing it by accident.
It often says things like "this charging source cannot charge your blackberry" when it definitely can because I have before, or it's the proper adapter and cable.
The menu system is a nested mess - the difference between 'device setup' and 'options', the reliance on the Blackberry button to bring up a long scrollable list of 10-20 things.
This one has a touchscreen, but the icons don't have text under them and touching to select them doesn't change the "what you've selected text" so it is mystery meat navigation for the less commonly used ones.
It took five hours to install an updgrade. And that's normal.
Nothing about it is as bad as a phone from 10 years ago, but many, many things about it grate as unpolished, clunky, as if designed-to-annoy.
In a way, I was wrong and I was right. When people were predicting the death of RIM a year or more ago, I noted all the above. RIM and Blackberry won't die from lack of features or from an inadequacy of the basic product. Their own internal pathologies which keep them from executing will kill them off.
No news over where? About what?
In 2006 these devices would have been great. So it takes roughly 4 years (taking R&D, production, etc into account) for them to admit they are wrong and adhere to, or create new features. "What can we possibly innovate on?"
I think companies like RIM get stuck because they see themselves as innovators – and they were – when we were all using flip phone Nokias. In that relative time period, a Blackberry was today's iPhone/Android. So you get self-righteous. People are calling you an industry titan. "Now don't change anything because this is working great!". First mistake.
RIM would have done well by suffering from Imposter's Syndrome. In this mentality, being told you're an industry titan stays in your head as a compliment for about a day.
This is an instructive roadmap. Apple might well follow it one day.
But let me share a story about that particular topic:
In Indonesia, people aren't rushing to iPhone or Android because they don't care apps. They'll use whatever that comes with the phone and most local distributors are smart enough to package them with common apps such as Twitter and Facebook.
Most websites in Indonesia support BB and develop apps for BB because they know BB is king there.
Once BB is done, they'll move to a generic Android based smartphone that will definitely have a few common apps:
1) Mail Reader
The people who installed other apps are the very very very tiny minority.
Might want to tweak that statement
That being said, their trajectory seems to be downward and I have trouble imagining how they will survive long term. It's simply becoming uneconomical to have your own mobile OS without significant market share. The future here seems to belong to iOS and Android, at least for the foreseeable future.
Windows Phone 7 only survives because it's being pumped up by the great cash engine of Windows/Office. Perhaps MS will plant a poison pill into RIM and eventually buy them out to buy marketshare, much as they've done and are doing to Nokia.
Microsoft dropped more than $10 billion on the Xbox before it ever turned a dime in profit (that's operating loss -- not including acquisitions. It's still about $4 billion in the hole, lifetime.)
I'm really failing to see how what I said about Xbox was wrong, given these numbers. But I suppose it's old news now.
12-15 months just doesn't seem realistic. RIM is profitable with cash reserves plus strong corporate and Asian markets. They can transition into a company that is profitable but not innovative or a world leader.
12 months might be a bit short, but if their revenue continues in this free-fall, it's not out of the question that their stock will be below the value of their assets by that point, simply out of expectation of future collapse.
Edit: I should add that there's nothing wrong with transitional technologies, as there's real value there. And lots of money to be made. But if that's what you're doing then you should realize it, and plan for a graceful demise or a transition to something else.
It's very similar to what happened with notebooks or netbooks or whatever they are called - small laptops that are more portable than a 17' laptop. Yes, people wanted portability, but no, the PC is not portable. That is why the iPad is such a success - it's not a PC. It's something else.
In reality, Apple was acquired by NeXT in a reverse-takeover, and NeXT decided to maintain the Apple and Mac-related brands. It’s more nuänced than that, but effectively that’s what happened.
There are some parallels with RIM's QNX acquisition, but RIM seems to be afraid to throw away the old. You can't milk the cow and have it on the barbecue too.
They aren't going to say that they're abandoning the current platform, they'd Osborne themselves if they did. That doesn't mean that the company isn't throwing all of it's efforts into next year's phone.
Apple sold a lot of bondi blue iMacs before OS X was ready, they wouldn't have survived to ship OSX if they hadn't.
Hardware that provides an upgrade path to new systems is one thing, but RIM released a major revision to BBOS more than a year after the QNX acquisition. I believe the previous CEOs even stated they have no plans to abandon BBOS. Which means that many bright minds are going to be working on it, instead of putting focus on the QNX system.
Imagine if Apple had continued to work on OS9 into OS10 for the iMac line and had another team working on OSX for PowerMacs. That is essentially what RIM has been doing.
Obviously Apple was working on Pink/Copland all through the 90's, then Rhapsody/OS X since early 97. They didn't ship OS X for _3 whole years_, all the while losing market and mindshare to Wintel.
RIM stating that they aren't abandoning the current form of BB OS is to me equivalent to Apple shipping bug fixes for OS 8 (i.e. OS 9) and Carbon support in OS X (blue box), except in RIM's case they are declaring software/service support for BB OS because they understand that smartphone buyers are on a 3 year cycle imposed by the carriers.
I'm not trying to defend RIM's failure to execute, but it's a difficult, multi-year process to ship a new platform without nuking the company. In my mind their biggest failure is that they should have bought QNX in 2007, not 2010.
Nice image. You might have a future in writing horror novels.
This would be way more interesting than WebOS.
Edit: correction, the licensing was only changed, but the source is still accessible. QNX source Access policy faq:
You can download proprietary QNX open source from projects such as BSPs and Drivers,"
What is proprietary open source?
All the robotic Startups in the future could profit from a mature open sourced real time OS.
I remember in 1998, before their Mobitex device was publicly available, a friend let me send an email from his production prototype - it seemed like the coolest thing in the world to have this little wireless device that could send email. There was nothing like it at the time, as far as I know. They were really pioneers.
Wut? Windows phone is a non starter that Microsoft needed Nokia to save at all, and even that hasn't panned out positively yet for either of them.
RIM should have rallied around Android years ago, and still should today. Build the Blackberry ecosystem on top of Android and you'd be getting somewhere awesome.
I feel that Blackberry could save themselves by targeting both those who love BBM, and those who want a simple, cheap phone. I think parents and kids would love to have a basic phone with a physical keyboard, BBM and a great new UI.
i.e. cheap and fast.
Groups are convenient I guess.
Their platform is a nightmare to code for, and they are unwilling or unable to fix it.
Pioneer -> Innovator -> Market leader -> Complacent -> Sit on your ass too long -> Competition overtakes -> Sell off , Go Home.
I could see some kind of corporate white knight come in and swoop in for the rescue. Probably a company with huge cash reserves that will be heavily "encouraged" to do so by the US government.
The thing is, that is kinda paranoid and normal businesses don't really need that kind of security. But when BlackBerry's were one of the coolest devices out there and also the most "secure" ones, RIM's sales-reps had an easy time selling them to a lot of companies. Again, not that they needed that kind of security, but more security is always good, and the device is cool, so why not, right? :)
Nowadays, this doesn't work that well anymore, because the people working at companies are just like normal people and just want to use the coolest devices. CEOs and managers are usually the first ones to demand that their iPhone works on the internal network, and suddenly the whole BlackBerry advantage isn't all that important any more.
I think the market of business who really need the kind of security RIM provides is a very small one.
For those who carries BB around and "on-call" would probably agree: productivity boost.
MSQNX coming to a phone near you...
MS could actually do a lot worse than pick up some Blackberry stuff to improve their enterprise offering with WP. If it means getting Blackberry Messenger too, then all the better.
My guess is that if MS is considering this they'll wait until RIM hits rock bottom.
RIM is still known for making attractive hardware. Their best bet is trying to accelerate the Web as the application platform. Joining in with Mozilla's WebAPI initiative would be wise.