Do you know anyone who still owns a Blackberry? If you do, the numbers probably aren’t staggering. Unless you live in Africa, the phones are getting harder and harder to find.
I actually do know a few people who use Blackberries, but they’re friends who work for organizations who supply them. And I wouldn’t call these friends Research in Motion brand evangelists: most of our Blackberry-related discussions entail cursing the phone’s inability to properly run GroupMe.
I stopped using a Blackberry when Apple and Android began lapping the company’s phones, but I want the company to succeed. Seriously.
I think a world with more than two smartphone giants is better than Google and Apple simply trading blows annually while Microsoft waves their hands frantically screaming, “We offer phones too!”
Is the new Blackberry 10 operating system the answer? I don’t know. Launching the system without a beautifully designed, epic smartphone to run the thing is curious. It gives the impression the company hasn’t thought that far ahead. And for a company accused of a series of missteps and lousy product launches, you don’t want consumers and shareholders alike thinking that way.
In my mind, Blackberry’s biggest challenges is the same uphill climb facing Google Plus or Microsoft’s Bing. Once a brand is established as the primary choice of consumers, ie. Facebook and Google respectively, it’s hard to make those same consumers proactively change unless the alternative is dramatically better.
Unveiling an operating system isn’t going to inspire that change.
“It’s been five years since Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone launched and RIM still doesn’t have a viable competitor on the market. The company has plenty going for it — like nearly 80 million subscribers worldwide, valuable infrastructure and an unmatched mobile e-mail service. But it doesn’t seem to know how to utilize those assets in the right way. Instead of pushing licensing agreements with other phonemakers, RIM is placing all of its bets on BlackBerry 10. And while the new operating system is promising, these days it takes a whole ecosystem (including thousands of time-sucking apps) to compete, not just a cool OS.”
Five years of stagnation equates to a lot of teenage consumers entering the market with no sentimental tie to Blackberry. To those teenagers, Blackberry is simply something the “cool kids” would never buy. Is this fair to Blackberry? Probably not, but I think it’s the truth.
A quick aside to help prove my point:
When I was in elementary school Reebok Pumps were a game changer.
Every kid wanted a pair. I remember my mom trying to sell me on a cheaper alternative, the LA Gear Regulator pumps. I wasn’t having that. The cool kids didn’t wear LA Gear, they wore Reebok Pumps. And to a self-conscious teenager, setting a new trend doesn’t sound nearly as palatable as jumping into a current one.
What does LA Gear have to do with Blackberry? Nothing. I just mention it because LA Gear stopped selling men’s performance footwear in 1994. In 1998 the company filed for bankruptcy.
Your move, Blackberry. Don’t go all vintage on us. Some of us want you around for a long time.