Written exclusively for Berryfication.com by Greg Wesson (@lombaki)
In 2007, we all had a good laugh. A computer company was going to make a phone; with a touchscreen. The company that was previously on the brink of death, until Microsoft jumped to the rescue with some money, was entering the BlackBerry and Palm owned SmartPhone market. It’s 2012 now, and the only people laughing are working for the richest company in the world.
We all know the in between bits. Apple’s iOS, with it’s iTunes ecosystem, has created a whole new mobile world where phones are no longer phones, but rather portable media consuming, data using, hardware competing beasts. Everyone is playing catch-up, but no one is all that close. Even Google is having a rough go at it shooting from the hip. They have a widespread OS, but which hardware? And how many tablets? And which OS on which tablet? And how much of Android is really being used on that device? Apple used a bullet, and tagged their target. Google used a shotgun and made some holes, but it’s not quite the same.
So where is BlackBerry in all of this? Again, we know the answer. They were laughing and now they are crying and trying to catch-up. From first attempts at touchscreen with the Storm series to the most recent BB7 OS, they have made some great strides, but catching up won’t cut it. Former Co-CEO and board member Jim Balsillie was right when he said the words “Leap frog”. That’s what they need to do.
Can BlackBerry revolutionize the mobile OS in the iOS dominated market? Well, let’s face it, their broswer is headed in the right direction. With it now being the second best HTML5 browser on the market, only behind the PC version of Chrome, I’d say that’s a solid step. With the ever enjoyful PlayBook OS2.0 and it’s guesture based goodness, that’s another solid step. What’s missing is eco-system, but that’s just catch-up.
Eco-system made iOS popular. Apps became a Jones effect phenomenon. What BlackBerry needs is beyond eco-system. They need the Leap frog idea. They need the next step in mobile tech and, as I’ve said before, I think some of the answer is right in front of them.
Bridge is brilliant. There’s no better description. I’d be frustrated having to pay 2 data plans when it turns out I didn’t need to do so. And to have my phone talk with my tablet?! How fantastic! I can be emailed a link, and then just “Open On” my PlayBook for a larger view? Killer! I can use my phone as a remote control for my tablet when it’s hooked up natively via HDMI to a TV? Speechless! What I don’t get is why BlackBerry hasn’t been selling handheld/tablet bundles for the past year. I mean, you’ve got this incredible feature, especially with Bridge Remote on 2.0, and you don’t hand it to people in a bundle? Really? Oh right, no CMO. When BlackBerry 10 drops and ends up being on both the handheld and the tablet, there will be better integration and they had better be bundles.
What else could help BB10 Leap frog the OS competition? An improved virtual keyboard, of course! Rumor has it that BlackBerry or QNX or someone at RIM has some kind of haptic or other tactile feedback to the new software/hardware. I won’t lie, I liked SurePress. I didn’t use it much as I didn’t own a Storm, but from what I did experience, I enjoyed the “click” of the key. Now, that was a hardware act. This new software or, as I said is rumored to be “haptic style” but more clicky, less buzzy. They’re rumors, but it would make sense and if someone within RIM’s multiple subsidiaries has been able to improve the virtual keyboard by giving it a real keyboard feel, they may just pull off an OS Leap frog move.
Would Bridge and a keyboard be enough though? I doubt it. People want media. While I feel that the tablet arena is much better suited for books and movies, things such as light games, music, and social media will continue to boom and those “must have” and “brand name” apps are beyond necessary. In order to obtain them, getting them on BlackBerry 10 must be as easy as possible. Literally, if a BB10 could run native iOS apps, people might consider it. What really needs to happen though, is BlackBerry needs to be the “go to” place for developers. How does BlackBerry get there?
Jam sessions are helping. All the different ways to code are kind of helping. Gameplay looks like it could really help. Here’s the deal with gameplay: Why code for just iOS and then Android separately when you can code for both, plus BB10 in one punch? Enter gameplay. Code for all three platforms at once. Now, I’m no developer, but my first question is, How well does the code work on all three devices? Is it really that easy? I don’t know. We’ll find out in the near future, but in the end, the day that BlackBerry gets the app that the other OS’s end up vying for, we’ll know that we have arrived not just back into the fold, but at the top.
All said and done, there are a lot of obstacles ahead for BlackBerry 10. It has to give the consumer more than they expect. It has a lot to prove. Then again, so did the 1980 USA Olympic Men’s Hockey team.