Where Does BlackBerry Play In An Android, iPhone World?
Andrew R. Hickey
And then poof!
Enter Google Android and the Apple iPhone and the once-dominant Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry line became somewhat of an afterthought as consumers and professional users scramble for the latest hot devices.
Since the release of the first Apple iPhone in 2007 and the first Google Android smartphone in 2008, RIM and BlackBerry have steadily lost share to its new foes. While RIM sells more BlackBerry smartphones than all smartphone rivals, save for Nokia, its share of the North American smartphone market is declining. RIM's north American market share by shipments dropped to 38 percent in the March quarter versus 54 percent in the same quarter one year prior. Meanwhile, Apple's share jumped from 18 percent to 23 percent.
Now, BlackBerry hopes to recapture some of its previous luster and regain significance with a touch-screen tablet slated to rival the Apple iPad and a new smartphone that features a slide-out keyboard and runs and updated version of BlackBerry's own operating system, BlackBerry OS 6.0, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and other outlets quoting people close to BlackBerry and the upcoming devices.
BlackBerry has already tried to dethrone the iPhone with the launch of its first ever touch-screen device, the BlackBerry Storm, in 2008. Last year, RIM followed up with the touched-up BlackBerry Storm 2. Neither BlackBerry touch-screen smartphone could touch Apple's crown jewel. Now, however, RIM is looking to offer a smartphone that adds multi-touch technology similar to that of the Apple iPhone where swiping, pinching and other finger-tip controls manipulate images and Web sites, The Wall Street Journal reported.
What's more is the rumor that RIM is prepping an iPad-like tablet. While a new BlackBerry could give the once-market leader a fair shake against its two wunderkind rivals, the Apple iPhone and Google Android, a tablet propels RIM and BlackBerry into uncharted territory and an increasingly growing competitive market where its smartphone rivals already have a foothold: Apple with the iPad and Google Android with the upcoming Dell Streak tablet.
According to one BlackBerry blog, BlackBerry Leaks, RIM is developing a device smaller and thinner than the iPad that features full Blackberry OS compatibility and functionality. The device is code-named "BlackPad," but won't see the light of day until 2011.
RIM's plans for a hot new smartphone and a me-too tablet come as the BlackBerry operating system slips. In the first quarter of 2010, RIM's OS share dipped slightly while rivals Apple and Google gained ground with their mobile operating systems, a Gartner report indicated.
BlackBerry has also found itself playing catch-up on the mobile applications front. RIM was the last among the big three to launch its mobile application store, BlackBerry App World, which wasn't received as enthusiastically as Apple's dominant iTunes-based App Store and the Google Android Market. Many estimates indicate that BlackBerry App World features only 7,000 apps compared to Apple's roughly 250,000 and Android's more than 50,000.
And while BlackBerry is struggling to keep up with Android and Apple, it still has its presence and name recognition and can still hang its hat on its enterprise mobile e-mail and messaging capabilities.
Along with the rumored tablet and upcoming smartphone, RIM is rumored to have a host of other hot BlackBerry smartphones in the works to make up for its lack of recent innovation. If BlackBerry can truly release it hit, it's likely it can recapture the hearts and minds of the gadget hungry masses who have been wooed away by the likes of Android and Apple.