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For the company formerly known as Research In Motion, the BlackBerry 10 launch this week is the first step of an ambitious comeback plan.
But, the groundwork for this plan was laid long before Wednesday's event and even before Thorsten Heins took over as CEO. As Heins explained in his keynote, BlackBerry, as RIM is now known, was faced with a very serious decision two years ago: adopt someone else's software platform or redesign the BlackBerry OS and go it alone.
If BlackBerry had taken Nokia's route and dropped its OS in favor of a third-party platform, the company would have been forced to either hitch its wagon to Windows, which, arguably, is in a worse position than BlackBerry, or risk becoming lost in a sea of Android partners and overshadowed by Samsung and Motorola.
It's hard to second-guess BlackBerry's decision, even at this stage of BlackBerry 10's early existence. A departure from its proprietary software, as well as its all-important BlackBerry Enterprise Server, would have signaled total defeat for the company. BlackBerry 10 has received generally positive feedback, so at the very least BlackBerry will be making a spirited comeback attempt. Here's what the company got right with its new platform and BB10 devices, as well as a few things it didn't.
1. Embracing Application Developers
Arguably the biggest issue for BlackBerry in recent years was the lack of mobile applications for its devices. Developers were flocking to iOS and Android, and interest in the BlackBerry platform seemed low. The most glaring example of this discrepancy was perhaps the launch of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet in 2011; there was a lack of native apps designed for the PlayBook OS, which has now been merged with the smartphone OS in BlackBerry 10, and even though BlackBerry later added support for Android apps for the tablet, the BlackBerry App World store was criticized as messy and difficult to navigate. And even with many Android apps, the PlayBook was still missing a lot of top-tier applications, especially in the productivity and business departments.
Fast forward to 2013, and it's a different story; BlackBerry 10 has more than 70,000 apps at launch, which the company said is more than any other first-generation mobile OS release. During Wednesday's launch event, BlackBerry executives spent quite a bit of time talking about the company's effort to court developers for BB10 and provide them with the tools, support and financial incentives to create apps for the platform, including "Port-a-Thon" contests for Android developers to bring their content over to BB10.
The effort appears to have paid off; among the 70,000 apps are chart-toppers like Skype, Amazon Kindle, Facebook, Twitter and popular games like Angry Birds. Yes, BB10 users will have to wait for some big names like Instagram. And yes, many of those launch naps are still Android apps at their core. But, a big question for BlackBerry going into 2013 has been answered: If the company can continue to entice developers and at minimum generate solid Android ports for its more secure and stable OS, then BlackBerry will have turned a minus into a plus.