BlackBerry, from company Research In Motion (RIM), was once the strongest mobile phone brand in the world. Everyone wanted a BlackBerry phone, including myself, and they were the status icon of the work hard, play harder era of the late 90's and early 2000's. BlackBerry has since fallen from a dominant position in both the corporate and consumer marketplace. This article is my thoughts on how BlackBerry could become the new Apple and dominate the mobile industry again - and my reasons why it could be too late already.
The consumerization of the corporate marketplace
The corporate world was once confined to beige boxes and everyone accepted that there was a distinct difference between the equipment you used at work and the equipment you used at home. Over the last couple of years the barriers between the two worlds have broken down, mainly due to the rise of powerful smartphones offering business features combined with consumer ones. This is really clear with phones such as the iPhone. This phone is now on its fourth version and has sold hundreds of millions. This device practically invented the app store and become the ultra-cool must have gadget that millions aspire to own and millions more already own. The iPhone threw out old user interface conventions and made the mobile phone easier to use whilst adding a lot of useful functionality. When people started to compare their BlackBerries with this new device, they quickly decided they would rather use Apples even without the support of the IT department. It took companies several years to start offering iPhones to employees but they are now one of the most favoured phones available. It is the rise of the iPhone, and of devices running Android, that has broken BlackBerries grip on the market.
What is wrong with Blackberry now
When one hears the word BlackBerry, people instantly think of the physical keyboard with small screen email client (apart from thinking of the fruit). Despite offering new touchscreen and hybrid interface phones, BlackBerry has yet to shed that image. It still offers its traditional handset with an ever-increasing feature set - but it has yet to become a product that has gadget lust.
Shedding its traditional brick phone image is BlackBerry's most difficult problem as it is also one of its strongest assets. Many companies, including Samsung and HTC, have created BlackBerry replicas but none of them work as well as the original. There is an increasing retro factor with BlackBerry handsets such as the Bold, but that wont make up for its reducing sales.
How Blackberry is like Apple twenty years ago
Apple was once famously told by Michael Dell, owner of Dell computers, to liquidate and return its money to its shareholder. BlackBerry isn’t quite at the same point but there are similarities. Steve Jobs was arguably the savior of Apple with his single focus and special flavour of employee management. Apple basically had to reinvent itself from bankruptcy to becoming the worlds most valuable company. This is what I think BlackBerry could do if it refocused itself.
What Blackberry might be lacking
BlackBerry doesn’t seem to have the focus of Apple. In other words it has not got its own version of Steve Jobs. His authoritative style and presence rebuilt Apple in the way he thought it should be. However BlackBerry doesn’t necessarily need its own version of Steve, in fact it could be a mistake to find its own version. BlackBerry needs a focused team that is willing to work hard, and a team who has the power to make mistakes and take the time to create a new product.
How Blackberry could become the new innovators
Innovation is the key to success in mobile phones. The Apple iPhone is now dominant, and there are many similar clones available in the market. If BlackBerry launched something similar, like it has, it will be judged against the iPhone and by definition - fail. It needs to create its own new product that is innovative in one specific way. I think that BlackBerry should focus on its traditional business market, but make the phone suitable for consumer use to. A phone that offers comprehensive security options might be something that could work. Using its own operating system is almost impossible at this point, using Android or more preferably the new Windows mobile operating system, would allow users access to a comprehensive app store. Windows is still the dominant operating system on the desktop and integrating well with it might break Apples hold as Apple's iCloud will only really work well with OSX.
How Apple might slip up in the future (and how BlackBerry could capitalise)
Apple is a very dictatorial company, and had succeeded by dictating what users want. However it has offered less innovation in the last few years although it is still the leaders. Apples largest market is the USA, but there are more people in European countries and countries like Brazil, China and Russia. These people will want a different phone and may begin to tire of Apples dictation to the world. The fact that Apple is an American centric company may go against it and the more neutral Canadian RIM might find itself with the advantage. Offering a phone with localization to certain markets - perhaps integrating with services which only work in that country might offer BlackBerry the USP it needs.
The above work is my own views and I’m sure many people disagree with me. I love RIM and BlackBerry, and I think the market would suffer without them. The strong world-renowned brand could be much stronger and that is what I am getting at.
What do you think about BlackBerry? Do you think it could become the next Apple? Do you think it needs its own Steve Jobs to succeed? Or does it already have one? Please feel free to leave a comment below and if you aren’t already a member of InfoBarrel you can join by using the link on the top right.