You don’t have to look back far to the days when BlackBerry ruled the smartphone market. On the back of the BlackBerry Messenger Service (BBM), manufacturers Research in Motion (RIM), saw their handsets at the top the top of the pile. Everyone from Barack Obama to Brad Pitt was using BlackBerry devices; however, since the release of the first generation Apple iPhone in 2007, the smartphone with the physical QWERTY keyboard has been on a steady decline.
Having originally lost majority market share to Apple, RIM were then faced with the prospect of dual- and quad-core Android devices which quickly became the fastest selling smartphones on the market, surpassing even Apple in market share. In March of this year (2012), BlackBerry handsets had a market share of just 12.3 per cent and, after seven boom years, registered a loss. As the iPhone continues to progress and Google Android devices dominate the market, are we looking at a future without BlackBerry? Have they fallen so far behind the competition that it is now impossible to make a comeback, or are they able to rise again?
The new BlackBerry 10 OS
If BlackBerry are to rise again, RIM are going to need something that can compete with their rivals, it seems that they may have something up their sleeves in the form of a new operating system: BlackBerry 10.
At the company’s recent BlackBerry World conference held in Florida, Research in Motion unveiled their new OS for the first time. Hopes are pinned on this new platform pushing BlackBerry back into the smartphone big leagues. BB 10 is much more than an upgrade of previous operating systems, it is a complete overhaul.
RIM has started afresh with BlackBerry 10 and produced an operating system based primarily on user-friendliness. There are a number of impressive features with the new OS that were shown off at the conference, including an adaptive touch-screen keyboard that offers gesture-based typing, adjusting to your typing style and promoting easier communication. Of course, the introduction of a touch-screen keyboard means that RIM will be producing more phones without the classic physical keyboard.
The new interface is all about improving user-experience, allowing users to swipe to apps and to separate screens, taking away the need for navigating back to the home page every time you need to enter another application. There will also be a new camera which allows users to adjust and edit photos on the fly by capturing shots before you press the shutter button.
Full details about the new OS are limited at the moment, but it is certainly very encouraging.
BlackBerry is synonymous with physical keyboards on phones and over the years this has proven to be their biggest selling point. Despite RIM’s drop in market share, the inclusion of the QWERTY keyboard is something that still attracts a lot of people to BlackBerry phones. Because of this, RIM has made the wise move of stating that it plans to release traditional physical keypad devices on the BB 10 platform. These phones will retail alongside the new touchscreen devices, giving fans more choice.
BlackBerry to feature in cars?
There are suggestions of BlackBerry putting BB 10 into cars, this would of course give them a whole new market to focus on and may help revive the company in the long run. BlackBerry 10 is QNX-based software, QNX are a company that manufactures industrial grade operating systems for various models of car. It just so happens that QNX is owned by Research in Motion.
Outdoing the rivals
It is unlikely that BlackBerry will ever find themselves competing at the top of the smartphone market. The likes of Apple and Android are now too far ahead in terms of phone innovation and reputation for BlackBerry to ever mount a serious challenge. It is more realistic to see BB competing with Windows Phone, which is also due an upgraded OS later this year.
Windows Phones are still finding their feet in the smartphone market and you suspect the experience of BlackBerry will be enough to outsell the Microsoft-based phones.
BlackBerry App World will also need a serious overhaul when the new OS arrives if it stands any hope of competing with the more established app stores on the market.
RIM seem to be addressing the problem of BlackBerry’s lacking innovation which is a good start, but whether they rise again will have a lot to do with the fans of BlackBerry in days gone by. If the new operating system and handsets have enough to please the fans, maybe RIM will live to fight another day.