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RIM recently announced it will be launching a new operating system – BlackBerry 10 – but few details have been released about its potential to build up an app ecosystem. According to RIM, the new OS will enable developers to write native applications and will feature HTML 5 support as well as the expected robust security.
Even with those things, though, BlackBerry 10 may not be enough to breathe new life into the brand. According to Shea, a new operating system won’t necessarily attract new BlackBerry developers – or even encourage existing ones to stay faithful to the BlackBerry name.
"You have to put yourself in the shoes of a developer," Shea said. "How much market share do they [RIM] have now? How much energy am I going to spend learning a new OS? If I’m not already a BlackBerry developer why would I get into? And even if I am already a BlackBerry developer, if it’s a big change, do I really want to move forward with it? There’s nothing I’ve heard from BlackBerry that would make me feel like this would be a good bet."
App ecosystems and innovation aside, the massive BlackBerry outage in October didn’t necessarily help RIM’s cause either, Lucchini noted.
Starting on October 10, BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa experienced service disruptions on their BlackBerry smartphones that prevented the sending and receiving of e-mail and other messages. Two days later, the BlackBerry blackout made its way to the U.S., Canada and Latin America.
Needless to say, affected BlackBerry users weren’t thrilled. In late October, RIM faced a pair of class action lawsuits, filed in Quebec, Canada and Santa Ana, Calif., spurred by the inconvenienced smartphone users who, in some cases, lost service up to four days. The outage, according to Lucchini, may have been the final straw, prompting many RIM customers to throw in the towel.
"BlackBerry had a major multi-day outage. And I think they [RIM] were, at that point, under fire," Lucchini explained. "Everybody was saying, 'You can look at iOS, you can look at Apple and you can look at Android, and they have touch interfaces, they have app ecosystems, and app stores, where I can do so much more. I love my BlackBerry and I’m so loyal but it doesn’t have those things. The browser on the BlackBerry isn’t that good, so I feel like all these devices are better than mine.' And then you go and have an outage."
While the outage may have added yet another blemish to RIM’s smartphone reputation, there is still hope for the BlackBerry brand, solutions providers said. Since its introduction to the market, BlackBerry has positioned itself as one of the most secure corporate devices an enterprise could get its hands on, and if RIM can find a way to really emphasize this strength, they could regain a lot of the market share they’ve lost.
"From my perspective, having to maintain a fleet of iPhones or even Droids right now – they are all little islands," Shea explained. "With a BlackBerry, with the enterprise server, I’ve got the ability to profile the devices. I can issue commands to the devices from a central console. There is nothing like that for the iPhone or for the Droid right now. And that is the one glimmer of hope I see for BlackBerry. If they can catch up on the feature set and the ease-of-use and still have that central administration and central control, then they might be able to get the IT guys back."
NEXT: RIM Makes Nice With Android, iOS