I couldn’t resist the title, but there is a show traveling Canada right now called WIRED, and one of their props is an improvised giant BlackBerry. WIRED aims to educate youth about how to deal with cyber-bullying, and some of the challenges kids face growing up in a fully connected world. Funnily enough, the featured BlackBerry has Viigo loaded and a cool theme I haven’t seen yet. I actually don’t mind the square edges on the device and would probably buy a completely square form factor. I spoke to one of the actors Chris Cochrane, and apparently the kids they meet, aged 8-12, all have Facebook profiles and a lot of them have BlackBerrys.
Wired.com discusses the reasons behind Verizon’s lack of what they consider to be high-end smartphones. The higher-end BlackBerrys they have right now are the BlackBerry Storm, and the WiFi-free BlackBerry Tour.
“They lack the star products that their competitors have,” says Avi Greengart, research director, consumer devices for Current Analysis. “They recognize they don’t have compelling devices right now but feel they can make up for it with network quality.”
Read more at the Wired Gadget Lab.
Yesterday’s article had a great response from BlackBerry Cool readers, and it’s important to follow up with some points to consider. Special thanks goes out to Peter Werry from Multiplied Media for help with the article.
On RIM and the Consumer Space
It’s important to note that the consumer space is getting an incredible amount of internal focus at RIM. This is evidenced by the fact that RIM refer to themselves as “BlackBerry” rather than “RIM” at trade shows, they release numerous updates for App World, and they have expanded the BlackBerry Developer Conference to almost twice what it was last year. Last quarter alone, we saw RIM nearly double their total sales in the consumer space. All signs are pointing towards the consumer space being a key market for the smartphone industry and RIM isn’t about to ignore it.
On Security and the BlackBerry Browser
In everything they do, RIM never forgets that security and reliability are the key to a successful enterprise product. However, just because there needs to be a focus on those two features doesn’t necessarily mean the browser and other aspects of the device have to suffer.
RIM has made public comments about their intentions to improve the browser. TD recently released a speculative report on the subject as well. While security and reliability no doubt remain a key focus of the platform, RIM has made obvious moves towards improving their browser and making it more consumer focused. This is evidenced by their acquisition of Torch Mobile for their WebKit software. We could all agree that RIM’s browser tends to fall short in the consumer world, and we can be fairly confident they will be able to bring it to a level that will make them an industry leader in the mobile browser space once again.
On the Issue of WiFi and Pricing
In yesterday’s article, it was suggested that WiFi is left out as a feature on some devices in order to allow for price flexibility. The truth is that it can actually become more costly for RIM to create two versions of a device, one with and one without WiFi. This is because of the costs associated with developing for different hardware configurations, and the administrative costs of treating them as separate entities. The decisions to go with or without WiFi are mainly driven by the carrier. Generally, RIM is very constrained by carrier demands.
On the Topic of App World
A few BlackBerry Cool readers have been very adamant that App World has essentially been a development disaster. The theory is that management got freaked out that they were missing some huge opportunities for growth and they pushed the application to release before it was ready. RIM has done a good job of upgrading App World to fix the bugs, but much of this should have been happening before launch.
The question for the future is: will RIM step up its game as it has been doing so far to meet the consumer market demands?
RIM may have to essentially re-write most of their key components, and expose much more of the device capabilities to 3rd party developers. Eventually, it’s all going to come down to which device has the best apps, the best network, and the best device capabilities. Look to the first quarter of next year to see if RIM will continue to lead.
Wired recently published an article entitled “5 Things RIM Needs to Fix in its BlackBerries[sic].” The article is a great read, but I’d like to address a few issues with what Wired thinks RIM needs to improve.
The article goes on to highlight the following 5 areas where RIM needs to improve:
- App Store
- Desktop Software
Overall, I’m going to wholeheartedly agree with the list. RIM can always be improving every aspect of the BlackBerry platform and the company has plans that extend well beyond our current gripes.
Generally, the article missed out on explaining how RIM came to lack the features requested in the article, and how they must go about improving the situation.
It’s always important to note that the BlackBerry platform wasn’t founded on being a consumer device. RIM fell into the consumer market almost by accident. As more consumers adopt the device, the company is now faced with satisfying two, almost mutually exclusive markets.
Take for example the browser; highlighted in the article as being something sub-par and needing improvement. You can’t disagree with this but again, why are we here? The BlackBerry platform has always been focused on delivering totally secure communication for enterprise, and the browser was secondary to this focus. While it’s possible to update this browser and offer more functionality such as the ability to download files from the browser, there is a lot to take into consideration, not just the user experience. With each feature addition, you have to asses the security risks associated with said feature because it’s paramount to the brand.
The same argument applies to many of the other items on the list. App World, the touchscreen interface and the desktop software are all features of the BlackBerry platform that are lacking from a consumer perspective. But again, we’re moving from enterprise to consumers and the enterprise is still the most important market. Do you think government organizations with 50,000+ BlackBerry devices and an IT administration department controlling device policies care about a multitouch Storm? No, they care about a secure smartphone platform, and in this respect RIM is the best in the industry.
Another issue the article mentions is WiFi. The author asks: “why doesn’t the company have Wi-Fi in all its devices?” While there are probably a lot of reasons why, two come to mind and I’m surprised the author didn’t point them out.
1) Price: Offering WiFi significantly changes the price point of a device and RIM needs to be able to offer a wide range of prices to satisfy various markets. This is why the Curve is the number 1 selling smartphone in North America. The device comes in many iterations with varying prices for every type of user.
2) Carrier relations: When the user is on WiFi they aren’t burning through data and when they aren’t burning through data they aren’t spending more money. There are clearly deals going on at the executive level to stop certain devices from having WiFi because it’s good business for the carrier. You have to play ball with the carriers to get your product out there.
Overall, the article was great but writers are quick to forget where RIM is coming from, and where their allegiance lies. The consumer market is new to them and rest assured they’re getting there, but enterprise is what made this product great and they aren’t about to compromise the founding principles of the platform.