Can BlackBerry beat Windows Phone to become the third mobile OS?
By Chantal Tode
January 30, 2013
BlackBerry is getting an overhaul
After several years of declining market share, Research In Motion has a lot riding on today’s introduction of its newest mobile operating system – BlackBerry 10 – and the first phones built on the platform.
RIM still has the ability to gain the attention of mobile industry watchers, who will be looking for how the company plans to rebuild its weakening ties with enterprise and jumpstart its application ecosystem at today’s media event. If the company is able to deliver an OS and devices that professionals can get excited about, it just may have an opportunity to skate past Windows Phone to become the third largest platform.
“I think RIM has to deliver something that makes dyed-in-the-wool BlackBerry users say, ‘Oh, I have to have that,’” said Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, Boston.
“If they can upsell their existing base of people who focus on productivity to their BB10 devices and at the same time exploit their installed base of BlackBerry Enterprise Servers which sit in a majority of corporations, they'll do well,” he said.
“They won't challenge Apple or Samsung in the short run, but I think they have a shot at blowing past Windows Phone this year.”
Need for innovation
The current smartphone space is dominated by Android, with a 52 percent market share, and Apple, with 34 percent, according to Gartner.
RIM, which once upon a time was the leader in the mobile phone market, has watched its share drop from 20 percent in 2009 to 5.5 percent in 2012. As a result, it is now battling it out with Windows Phone – which could get a lift from the recently released Windows Phone 8 – and browser-based entrants such as Tizen and Ubuntu to become the third largest mobile operating system.
One of BlackBerry’s strengths in the past was its strong relationship with the enterprise sector, which favored BlackBerry for its reliability and security.
However, those ties have weakened as the bring-your-own-device-to-work movement has gained steam and BlackBerry failed to keep up with consumer demand for touch screen capabilities and other innovations.
BlackBerry 10 is intended to address these concerns. But, the question is can RIM address both consumer and enterprise needs adequately at the same time.
“ RIM must get a large percent of the 79mm customers it still has to switch from legacy BB models to the drastically improved BB10 devices,” said Scott Snyder, PhD, president of Mobiquity, Wellesley, MA.
“This will be a challenge, as many of the legacy devices are tied to enterprise contracts that expire; and many enterprises have already made the decision to move away from BlackBerry, with many putting mobile device management (MDM) infrastructures in place to manage non-BB devices securely,” he said.
“So RIM must really sell the unique features of BB10 to enterprises before this meltdown happens.”
Apps an issue
Some of the highpoints expected to be included in BlackBerry 10 are high performance and reliability, the ability to operate several apps at once and to toggle between personal and professional profiles easily and the integration of all messaging and notifications in one place.
One of the biggest shortcomings is likely to be a limited app ecosystem. Having a wide variety of apps available on a particular platform is becoming increasingly important to gaining consumer buy-in as app usage grows.
Right now, there is a lack of apps for BlackBerry 10, although 17,000 apps were recently added for the launch and more are expected to announce at today’s event.
However, in the short-term, consumers are likely to not find all of their favorite apps.
Additionally, BlackBerry does not have a strong tablet offering, another shortcoming as consumers and enterprise workers increasingly gravitate to these devices for consumer content, sales presentations and other activities.
“For Blackberry, an improved operating system is just one part of the journey; the major task Blackberry has is persuading app developers that there is value in investing in its infrastructure,” said Dan Wagner, CEO of Britain-based mobile payments firm mPowa, which offers a BlackBerry app.
“In comparison to iOS and Android, Blackberry has a tough game of catch-up to play when it comes to apps,” he said. “There is huge growth potential that can be exploited, but Blackberry should be a more future-proof organization that opens the door for relationships with other innovative companies.”
Productivity a focus
In the end, it is likely to come down to how enterprise embraces the new BlackBerry 10 platform and devices.
With this in mind, RIM is likely to continue to make productivity a focus, which is part of what gained BlackBerry its ardent followers early on.
“BB10s strongest points will be integration with corporate IT and productivity,” Yankee Group’s Mr. Howe said.
“People forget that BlackBerry was really the first smartphone that IT could love because it offered serious security coupled with great device management capabilities for IT, allowing it to wipe phones remotely, install apps, and generally manage the phone remotely,” he said.
“RIM now has extended that capability to cover other phones as well. This is really a platform that enterprise IT can get behind because it was designed for them originally.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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