Canadian based Research In Motion (RIM) released the first Blackberry in 1999. At that stage it was little more than a two way pager, but it put the name Blackberry in the public conscious. In 2003, they released the first true smartphone, which had email and internet capability, a camera and software. The phone was designed to work as a personal digital assistant, portable media player and gaming device.Blackberry boasts a high level of encryption for its push email facility and its proprietary Blackberry Messaging system (BBM). It is this security that has led to Blackberry being used by the Federal US Government and drug cartels alike! The Department of Defence are even cited as saying that Blackberry is ‘essential for national security.’However, Blackberry has had a hard time of it of late, culminating in the global break-down which saw millions of users incommunicado for up to 4 days in October 2011.
Many business users, who have their work phone supplied by their place of work, have a different smartphone for private use. The iPhone seems to be the top choice of many. Yahoo, the multi-national internet corporation, recently offered to buy all twelve thousand of its employees a smartphone as long as it was NOT a Blackberry. This was because they wanted the employees to use the same equipment their customers use, in order to experience their own service in the same way the customers would; Blackberry is now no longer on the list of most used smartphones. Only 16% of developers would be prepared to create apps for Blackberry, as compared to 89% for the iPhone and 79% for Android.
RIM has pinned its hope for resurrection on the newest member of the Blackberry family, the OS Blackberry 10, due for release in the first quarter of 2013. The general feeling from competitors and slightly disenfranchised customers alike is that it is too little too late; and as it will be incompatible with previous versions, not as good as it should be.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for RIM and the Blackberry platform. The President of the United States, Barrack Obama famously uses a Blackberry, an almost unmatchable ‘celebrity endorsement’, and is the first US president to use mobile email. Yorkshire Police also uses Blackberry, praising the way it allows officers to keep up with their office tasks while still being out and about on the job. Blackberry offers a unique interface with company communication networks, enabling personnel to easily stay in touch with the office from afar, a huge benefit for large companies spread over many branches and even other countries and continents.
Blackberry is still a market leader in mobile phones, fourth in the list at 6.2% of the market, although that figure is somewhat down on previous years, largely in part to the massive increases made by Android, runaway winners with 59%, and iOS (iPhones) at 23%. While negative news stories seem to imply that Blackberry has fewer users than ever, this would be inaccurate. When the first iPhone was released Blackberry had 10.5 million users; this was up to 21 million at the advent of Google’s Android, and up again to 55 million when the Windows phone came out. Blackberry currently has a global customer base of approximately 80 million users, although not as many as could be desired in enterprise contracts. If Blackberry 10, with its promise of a camera that can ‘back track’ to take the perfect shot, a predictive intelligent adaptive keyboard and a user interface based intriguingly on ‘flow’, can repair some of the damage of recent bad press and system glitches and restore faith in RIM, Blackberry could well make a comeback in 2013.
Has Blackberry lost its mojo..? Yes it has. Is it a ‘sunken ship’, good for nothing but abandonment? … no. If they can play to their strengths, learn to anticipate market needs and trends and restore confidence in the brand, Blackberry and RIM could be with us for many years yet to come.
Sources: www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology; www.zdnet.com; www.wikipedia.org; www.blackberry.com