Historically, the BlackBerry smartphone from Research In Motion (RIM) has been an excellent tool for business productivity. From the earliest models, these devices were designed to help executives on the go stay connected to their work in the office.
Over the years, the smartphone market continued to mature and as it did, models geared to the everyday user started to appear. Specifically, Apple's iPhone made huge strides in revolutionizing the genre, with a multimedia-based phone. Following in the iPhone's success, manufacturers and application designers saw a new market begin to emerge.
Through it all, RIM continued to refine and improve upon the beloved BlackBerry, whose users can become so addicted that the devices have been affectionately nicknamed CrackBerrys. Although some media functionality was added to the phones, it was never a primary focus. Last year's Storm saw the tide start to turn though, as RIM attempted to take Apple on head-to-head with a device that was as close to the iPhone as anything available at the time.
Unfortunately, the Storm was only a moderate success and not the runaway blockbuster that RIM and its exclusive carrier, Verizon Wireless, had hoped it would be. (Another attempt dubbed the Storm 2 is expected in the near future.) Still, RIM had acknowledged the large market share of nonbusiness users that it was missing out on, and has continuously added more, and better quality, media functionality into its various new models.
This year saw the launch of BlackBerry App World, an application repository sanctioned by RIM where the company and third-party developers could offer BlackBerry programs. While there were always places for developers to offer their products, App World quickly became a centralized location for users to download applications.
The mix of upgraded hardware capabilities, and third-party developers, has resulted in the BlackBerry's evolution into a multimedia, personal productivity device. With 3.2-MP cameras, high-resolution screens and wireless broadband, the BlackBerry of today serves a whole new group of users.
While the business functionality, centralized manageability and security features that made it such a popular business phone among professionals and their IT departments still exist, many people are looking at the BlackBerry in a whole new light. Everyday, new applications that revolve around social networking, streaming video and nightlife appear for download.
On Wednesday, the BlackBerry got another shot in the arm when TiVo, virtually the definition of convergence between media and personal productivity, launched an application that allows users to use their BlackBerrys to search for or browse television shows, and then remotely set their TiVos to record while on the go. Until now, the only other phone with a similar application was the iPhone (using a Web-based interface, other phones with broadband service can do comparable activities).
The TiVo application is just the latest step in BlackBerry's evolution from business phone to a device for everyone. While the iPhone's interface has yet to be beat, the BlackBerry is gaining ground with functionality that is enticing to all.
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