Research in Motion’s rather low-key announcement of its OS7 devices belied the importance of the new BlackBerry devices to RIM’s recovery. The new devices include an all-touch-screen version of the Torch, a touch-screen version of the Torch with a slide-out keyboard and a new, super-thin version of the Bold. At least three major carriers in the United States will sell these new devices in the coming weeks.
The question that most people will have is whether these BlackBerry devices are good enough to knock the iPhone and the Android universe out of their respective leadership positions. The answer is, probably not.
But they may be good enough to stem the current slide in BlackBerry sales, and perhaps gain back some market share. The secret to their potential success is that these devices offer something for everyone who wants a better BlackBerry experience, but who doesn’t want an Android or iOS device.
Despite the rabid fans of Android and iOS-based devices, there are a number of reasons BlackBerry devices still hold a solid percentage of the market share. Perhaps most important, a BlackBerry is inherently more secure than either an iOS or Android device. This is why you’ve seen governments, ranging from those of India to Indonesia, trying to keep BlackBerry devices out of their countries with little success. Their intelligence agencies can’t crack the military-grade encryption that RIM uses for BlackBerry Messenger. You don’t see efforts to ban iPhones or Android devices.
The second is that BlackBerry devices, along with BlackBerry Enterprise Services integrates more seamlessly into the enterprise-computing environment than do other devices. This explains why you see federal employees carrying BlackBerry devices here in Washington, but you rarely, if ever, see them use anything else for official business. While Apple especially has made significant inroads into the enterprise, there are still some tasks it’s not up to.
But in reality, the biggest hurdle for RIM isn’t in the enterprise. RIM needs to be accepted by consumers as well as by business and government users. Can it accomplish that task? The answer is, maybe. A great deal will depend on how good the user experience is when the first BlackBerry 7 devices hit the street. If they work well, they’ll likely find consumer acceptance, if they’re clunky or slow, then they won’t.
RIM is betting that new devices will be enough of a leap ahead of the BlackBerry 5 and 6 models that they will turn users’ heads.
BlackBerry 7 Lineup Looks Good on Paper
The company is hoping that the new faster browser, the new faster hardware platform and the new capacitive touch-screen, along with new applications, will get attention from people who aren’t iPhone advocates. RIM is also likely hoping that the ability to get a real keyboard that’s easy to type on will also make a difference to people who just don’t like touch-screens.
Another new capability that will make the new BlackBerry devices an alternative to the iPhone is the ability to use 4G from AT&T and T-Mobile. AT&T will be offering 4G-capable versions of the Torch 9810, the Bold 9900 and the Torch 9860, which is the all-touch version of the Torch. T-Mobile will start with the Bold 9900, which has both a touch-screen and a keyboard in the standard BlackBerry layout. A company spokesperson told eWEEK that RIM will make announcements later about other new BlackBerry devices.
Sprint isn’t getting 4G, but it is getting the Bold 9930 and Torch 9850 all-touch devices. Sprint’s BlackBerry phones are global phones that support both CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM and will work nearly anywhere in the world, as will the AT&T and T-Mobile devices. Right now, there’s no word from Verizon Wireless regarding the new BlackBerry devices, but close examination of the specs shows that the CDMA versions of the Bold and Torch will work with Verizon’s network and its 3G data services. There is currently no support for Verizon’s LTE (Long-Term Evolution) service on the new devices.
On paper, the new BlackBerry lineup looks pretty good. The question of whether they’ll stem RIM’s decline depends on how good they actually are. In the past, RIM has made very solid hardware that worked as well or better than most of its competitors. Email and enterprise support has always been the BlackBerry sweet spot. But as well as these devices work, they’ve never been accused of being cool. In fact, the word utilitarian comes to mind. For example, while a BlackBerry will let you watch a video if you so desire, I don’t think I’d want to watch a movie on one of the current models. I might consider watching a movie on an iPhone or Android device.
So it really boils down to how well BlackBerry hardware works in comparison to the competition and how well supplied the BlackBerry AppWorld is. These days, the applications are a lot of what sells a smart phone, and there needs to be a lot of applications that work with BB OS7 if this phone is going to sell.