With yesterday's announcement of the BlackBerry 10 OS, two new handsets, and even the changing of the name of the company to BlackBerry, has anything really changed for the former RIM or the mobile landscape overall? No, I really don't think so. The details of the announcement were mostly known in advance, with just a few assorted miscellaneous items like dates regarding availability revealed. Overall, I see no particular reason to change my earlier forecast of the less than optimal outcome here, despite the vociferous opinions to the contrary that I'm sure will remain in some quarters.
I think there are a couple of very important, and, in fact, key observations that are crucial here. The first is that this announcement does not give BlackBerry any sustainable competitive advantage - they remain in catch-up mode, despite Hub and Flow and Angry Birds Star Wars. There is nothing here that the competition won't be able to emulate/copy/get access to in a short period of time. The Q10 handset is clearly tossing a bone to that portion of their customer base that values a physical keyboard over screen real estate; this has got to be a shrinking populace if there ever was one.
The next question is whether a prospect might skip an iOS or Android device and opt for a BlackBerry instead. This, too, is hard to imagine - sure, some enterprises and governments might decide to extend their use of BlackBerrys a little longer via these new products, but we're rapidly - very rapidly - heading towards BYOD dominance. It's a little hard to imagine that anyone will want to show off their shiny new BlackBerry in a bar. I think Windows Phone actually has a better shot in this department, but still not enough to justify its existence, either.
So, then, anything really happening here? No there isn't. I was impressed, BTW, with Balance (along the lines of the virtual cell phone I've long advocated (yes, I got the whole BYOD thing wrong back in 2007) and Remember, but this is an app, and I'm sure functionality like this will be available from many sources over time (ideally, platform-independent, via the Web, of course). So, then, I'm sorry, and, as always I'd love to hear any counterarguments, but I think it remains over at RIM - I mean, um, er, BlackBerry. And I'm not the only one in this camp.
Now, to be fair, I've also criticized Apple a good deal of late, and this goes back to my rhetorical question of May 2010 about whether the iPhone was becoming dated - and that regarding the iPhone 3. I've seen a number of reports like this one about Apple losing market share in important parts of the globe. I don't think this is a major problem; iPhone users generally buy into the whole iOS ecosystem and it's difficult to unhook from convenience like that. The buzz remains good (OK, not great, but good). But there's a good reason that Android has absolutely dominant market share worldwide (I did get that forecast right...), and that's the same as why Windows on PCs achieved a similar station: platform diversity. Apple is perpetually defining exciting new product and market segments (GUI-based PCs and generating mass appeal for touch-based handsets, just to name two), but then finds itself stuck and unable to dominate due to high prices, closed systems, proprietary technologies and services, and arrogance - although such can work at least temporarily on occasion; they did just fine with the iPod. They do know how to solve this problem; witness the significant price/performance range covered by the iPod and Macintosh lines, for example. Again, I think Apple will do just fine - and regardless vastly better than the fate that awaits BlackBerry.
Mathias is a principal at Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass.