Blackberry: The Titanic or The HMS Victory?
Before I begin I would like to say that in this metaphor there are places where I will take giant leaps, so please be kind. This article is in response to the Blackberry news of late, which, as I'm sure many of you know, is mostly concerning its new platform, Blackberry 10. In order to understand my point you need to first understand what each of these ships--bear with me-- have in common as well as where they differ. The RMS Titanic, obviously, is the infamous ship that, on the 14th of April, struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sunk. The unsinkable ship, the invincible and luxurious liner that had garnered so much attention had a huge hole gouged into it and began to sink. Their calls for help were laughed at because it was "the unsinkable ship" and so it sunk, unaided by those around it who could have saved so many people and salvaged much more of the ship. The ship that "couldn't be sunk" did so in such a fashion that it shocked the world because of its claims of invulnerability. A very different, much older ship, The HMS Victory was a British ship that was used for military purposes and is most famous for coming dangerously close to sinking many times, but coming back from the brink. It was slammed into by the Neptune and almost sunk, but with help, and some funding, they were able to not only get the ship back together, but made it battle ready again. Blackberry has had a hole gouged into it's rough, icebreaking exterior, in both its security as well as its actual phone features, and the question is where its going to go from here. Will it sink, or sail on and age gracefully?
THE BLACKBERRY'S STRONGEST FEATURE BECAME ITS GREATEST WEAKNESS
Lets take a look at things in Blackberry 10 and see what is going on that is getting everyone so interested. The first, quite fantastic, feature is the very innovative keyboard. The hardware version of which has been a keystone feature to Blackberry users for quite some time. The new keyboard allows you to "toss up" the words that hover over letters that it thinks will come next in the sentence. My thoughts on the hardware Blackberry keyboard are that although it is comforting to know that there is one, I function just as well on any other phone with a touchscreen keyboard than on the old Blackberry. The second reason I find fault with Blackberry's approach to the keyboard is that they feel that you don't need to focus on software as much if you have a hardware keyboard that is easy to use. If the software and the user interface are ignored because the hardware keyboard "makes up for it" then, slowly, the software, and the resulting other hardware, will fall behind the competition. Therein lies the problem. Blackberry has been too sure that it was unsinkable, but now it has a very good chance of being taken under. The Blackberry's strongest feature became its greatest weakness. Then in order to accommodate a touchscreen, a keyboard redesign as well as a redesign of the entire interface was in order, and Blackberry delivered in splendid fashion. It is an interface that is both innovative, clean, simple, as well as effective. I can not do the evaluation of the full operating system justice due to the fact that I simply don't have access to it. I am only going by what I have seen via The Verge, which has no doubt given fantastic coverage, but I have not had a hands-on with the software.
Now that Blackberry has refocused its user interface, and begun to make use of a touchscreen, it has a chance at saving the sinking ship. The operating system, from what I've seen, looks relatively smooth and easy to work with, albeit with next to no crucial or essential features revealed. Blackberry is sealing off the flooded compartments, getting a new captain, and coming up with new ideas places for the crew to work on. The question that is lingering in everyone's mind is whether or not this new leadership can coax a promising idea into a fantastic product that will make people fall in love with Blackberry again. Blackberry does indeed have a very solid product here. That much is clear even this early into development. In the software department as well as the beautiful hardware put out, which was not at all expected for such a short term device, give this new OS a lot of potential. The problem is this: they will be playing major catchup in both market share and experience with this particular technology.
BLACKBERRY 10 IS LIKE WINDOWS PHONE 7... IT'S GOT SOME CATCHING UP TO DO. FAST.
Blackberry is going to be in a predicament similar to the state of Windows Phone 7. When they release Blackberry 10, because they have lost much of their loyal user base to other smartphone makers and will be hard pressed to lure out the iOS and Android owners, will have an audience that will be tough to sell to when this hits the market. There is much to live up to and much to repair from a technical standpoint, and even more to improve upon in the security of the new operating system, as they make such radical alterations to the Blackberry OS. Whenever a new feature, or in this case the entire operating system, that is radically different from what the programmers are used to is created it often provides opportunities for security flaws. In order to succeed they will need to not only create a far better experience than the disaster that was Blackberry 7, but will need to be able to compete with iOS and Android. I want to believe in Blackberry, but I'm not even sure they are ready to be a company that makes flagship smartphones and if I can't say that then I definitely can't say that I believe Blackberry will dominate the market like it did in 2003. Blackberry dominated because they were first and the best, but now they have to be the best out of a surfeit of options. This can either be Blackberry saving its self from a near death collision or it could be the Titanic trying to seal off the flooding compartments when in reality the flooding has already passed the decks that would be sealed. It's in your court now RIM. Titanic?