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Does Blackberry Stand a Chance? January 30, 2013

Posted by Peter Varhol in Software platforms, Strategy.
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I don’t spend a lot of time and money with smartphone technologies.  It’s simply too easy to go down a black hole in expense and time with gadgets like that.  When I finally upgraded to a smartphone, in 2009, I got a Blackberry, mostly because I already had one in my job at the time.

The Blackberry of that time wasn’t all positive.  When the network went down, for hours or in a couple of cases days, I felt for the loss of instant email.  Web browsing was possible, and I did it occasionally, but using the Blackberry button as a pointing device was painful.

When I needed a phone upgrade, about two years ago, my requirement was for a world phone due to my occasional travel in Europe, and my carrier offered two choices – a Blackberry or an HTC Android device.  After pondering the question, I decided to go with the Android.

Now we have the Blackberry Z10 (not available in the US until March, and probably longer than that for my second-tier carrier).  It sounds very good at a high level, and most analysts and reviews are giving it good marks.

What Blackberry really had in the past was an app problem.  I went to one of their developer conferences, circa 2009, and talked to some developers.  There were one or more groups within RIM that encouraged developers to build apps for the still-robust platform, and provided tools and interfaces to do so.  And when those apps were completed, they were systematically shot down by RIM’s legal department.  Talk about a bait and switch!

Nevertheless, Blackberry still has a lot going for it today.  It has loyal enterprise users and IT departments (my small employer still runs a Blackberry Enterprise Server).  The independent network, despite occasional well-publicized outages, is a huge advantage, far better than anything available from anyone else.  And it has QNX, the OS vendor RIM acquired to build the Blackberry 10 operating system.  QNX is a POSIX-compliant multi-tasking OS that is small, fast, and, well, inherently multi-tasking.  You can actually run multiple apps on your phone simultaneously, and do so easily and transparently.

The battle for third (and likely last) place in the smartphone platform wars is between Blackberry and Microsoft Windows Phone.  It’s difficult to predict these things, because it comes down to so much more than technology.  Preston Gralla says the Windows Phone will win entirely because Microsoft has the bigger ecosystem.  But Microsoft has had a phone OS years longer than Apple or Google, and look at what that ecosystem has bought it.  Nothing.

But in a partially technical but primarily emotional response, I hope Blackberry wins.

And yes, I am currently interviewing for employment at Microsoft.  Go figure.

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