Why BlackBerry Needs Real Innovation, and How Boston Can Help
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join Apple in making serious inroads into RIM’s base of enterprise customers. If the long-rumored agreement between Apple and Verizon Wireless were ever to come about, the result would be a crushing blow to BlackBerry.
But RIM still has time to reposition itself. How?
Focus, Focus, Focus
I’ll start with what I believe is a fundamental flaw in RIM’s strategy. The company treats the market as very fragmented and hence develops multiple devices (Pearl, Pearl Flip, Bold, Tour, Curve) to cover the entire landscape. For all intents and purposes, Apple has a single phone with options for additional memory, a faster processor, etc. While RIM prices its higher end phones for the corporate jetsetter, Apple makes its one phone affordable for the masses. BlackBerry would do better to save R&D costs and channel its resources toward fewer phones while obsessing over user experience. Being a purely mobile company without the distractions of other business lines has its advantages.
Don’t Be a Copycat
While BlackBerry has much to learn from Apple in terms of focus, I’ve never been a fan of mimicking your most successful competitor’s design and feature set. This holds especially true against a formidable brand like Apple, which will trump you in aesthetic and marketing savvy nine times out of 10. Sure, there is room for some manufacturers (a la Samsung Mythic and Palm Pre) to siphon off price sensitive market segments. But RIM is in a different category—it’s a smartphone industry pioneer capable of doing far more than developing cheap iPhone imitations like the Blackberry 9500 (aka the Storm).
Now in its second generation, the Storm was an unsuccessful attempt to steal Apple evangelists and wannabes. Despite a $100 million marketing effort and availability on a far superior network, the buggy Storm shipped about half of iPhone 3G‘s 2.4 million units in the first three months post-launch. The second generation Storm (aka Storm 2) launch in Q409 was a non-event, because Verizon (and partner Motorola) placed its $100 million bet on The Droid, the first Android 2.0 -based phone, which debuted around the same time. I don’t have Storm 2 shipment figures handy, but my best guess is they are far less impressive than the original Storm. After its failed attempt and given the huge lead Apple has garnered, BlackBerry should leave the touchscreen to others.
Go Back to Your Roots
Shifting gears from what not to do, BlackBerry should return to its core strengths, developing devices that boost productivity, while considering changes in the market and technology. Favoring BlackBerry, which is perhaps best known for having a QWERTY keyword front and center on almost all devices, is the fact that entering text on a mobile device is only increasing in importance. Uses have expanded beyond dialing their phones and typing e-mails to include SMS, Web searches, social networking profile updates, completing Web forms, and more. The problem for BlackBerry arises when … Next Page »
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