Why the new BlackBerry Z10’s success is so important

In a recent post we discussed the BlackBerry Z10–five reasons you should stay with the platform, and five reasons why you should leave for greener, uh, smartphone pastures.

It occurred to me that many of you don’t know much about the new BlackBerry, or how important it really is to its recently-renamed parent (the former Research in Motion)…which, if there is ever going to be any more BlackBerrys, this one is going to have to do prey-ty well indeed.

It’s actually a very nice device…looks and feels good, has some very cool features, like the ability to keep your work data and personal data completely separate, yet allow some integration as well if needed.

And that brings up the problem with devices built to do one thing, but being adapted to do another. The BlackBerry is a business phone, a phone for the enterprise sector. The company started to lose its way when it decided it also wanted to attract consumers, which meant watering down or altering some of its better features.

Anyway…the problem usually wasn’t with the devices themselves, but the bloatware that got added to each phone by whichever wireless carrier you were purchasing it from. Except for that accursed nonworking trackball on the last generation of Curves that “featured” it, the machines were good quality. It was the company’s management decisions that eventually brought it to where it is today.

Which is to say, in life support.

Cue the excerpt from Matt Hamblen’s PCWorld article, “Can new smartphones rekindle the BlackBerry fire?”

(Please note that the article was published January 25, 2013. It makes reference to Research in Motion or RIM…since this article was published the company has officially changed its name to BlackBerry. Also, the new models were introduced January 30.)

“Not dead yet” could well be the new BlackBerry marketing theme, as the world prepares to hear about two new BlackBerry 10 smartphones to be announced next Wednesday.

Days before the announcement, there is fairly wide disagreement among analysts and developers over whether Research In Motion can stop the dramatic decline of its BlackBerry phones. The BlackBerry was the market leader until the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and Android phones after that. Its market share fell to 10% in 2010 and has dwindled to 5% today.

In advance of the event, specifications and photos have been widely leaked of the new touchscreen and QWERTY-keyboard versions of BlackBerry smartphones, but RIM hasn’t confirmed many of the details.

According to unconfirmed reports, the touchscreen version, dubbed the Z10, will have a 4.2-in. display, a resolution of 1280 pixels by 768 pixels and 16GB of internal storage.

It will also include a Snapdragon processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and Near-Field Communications technology (useful for mobile payments). Moreover, the models available from Verizon Wireless will be able to run on 4G LTE cellular networks.

Less is known about the smaller QWERTY version, known as the X10. With this model, RIM is acknowledging its loyal following of users, among 80 million overall globally, who prefer a physical keyboard.

Pretested smartphones

RIM officials confirmed that thousands of prerelease BlackBerry 10 devices have been tested by corporations, which have been the mainstay of the company’s customer base, even as BlackBerry’s global market share has dwindled to 5%, according to Gartner. Meanwhile Android has captured 65% of the global smartphone market and the iPhone has about 21%.

Analysts who have tried the devices offered some promising predictions. “The new BB10 offers the best [user experience] on the market—not perfect, but certainly a rival to the iPhone 5, with even greater performance,” said Gartner analyst Phillip Redman in a blog post this week entitled “RIM begins its comeback year with BES 10 launch.”

In an interview, Redman said that BB10 devices won’t surpass Apple or Android devices, but, he added, “I think they will beat Windows Phone.” Moreover, he predicted that RIM will “market this like nothing before, [with] much of the future of the company depending on the launch.”

In contrast, Citigroup financial analyst Jim Suva reminded clients in a note that the pre-announcement optimism for BlackBerry 10 devices is not necessarily an indicator of how well the phones will sell.

“We remind investors that actual sell-through matters to determine the true financial impact that the new OS and hardware will have on the company’s financials, especially in an increasingly competitive environment,” Suva said.

Michael Mullany, CEO of Sencha, a company that is an HTML5 development partner of RIM on the BlackBerry 10 platform, remains optimistic. “We think BB 10 has a good shot at re-igniting RIM sales,” he said.

In an interview, Mullany said the prerelease Z10 touchscreen model that developers have been testing offers “incredible performance for the browser inside—it will be a market leader for HTML5.”

Developer interest in apps

RIM also said it has seen heavy developer interest in building apps for BlackBerry 10, with 15,000 apps published in the BlackBerry World app store in two days.

Previous browsers in BlackBerry smartphones have been a sore spot for RIM, and Mullany remarked that the BlackBerry Torch smartphone, which was released two years ago was a disappointment. “When we got the Torch,” he recalled, “we scratched our heads and said, ‘Are they serious?'”

But Mullany also said that RIM has not “irreparably harmed itself,” because mobile consumers “have very short memories.” He said the Z10 has impressive speeds for scrolling content and responds quickly to touches.

Mullany said he’s not privy to RIM’s plans to market the Z10 or X10, but he noted that RIM has faced difficulties in the past in trying to attract consumers to BlackBerry devices after years of serving the needs of working professionals and enterprise IT shops.

In recent years, RIM relied on rock star Bono and the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas to promote the BlackBerry brand among consumers. But even stellar marketing could not correct a problematic product like the Torch.

“I feel this [Z10] is a very robust consumer device,” Mullany said. “It’s not a business-only device for sure. It will do well in the consumer and prosumer market.”

There’s more to this story found here.

I’d like to see the new BlackBerry Z10 do well. I think the smartphone industry could use a few more companies bringing great products to market (notice I said “great,” with new ideas and innovations). I’ll admit that I like Apple products and use them daily…but I’ve had a Windows Phone and a BlackBerry, and I’ve had access to and used an Android phone. Each and all of those had individually good and bad points.

You should be able to purchase a smartphone–or any product–because you like it, not because it’s the lesser of what you perceive to be two evils. Perhaps that’s what the Z10 will be–a choice for those who don’t like either the iPhone or Android, and can’t figure out the Windows 8 phone.

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