Blackberry 10 or Palm All Over Again?
After some time off from Is Horrible, I have been asked a lot lately about my thoughts on Blackberry 10. So I decided to put some of my opinions down to keep from having to repeat them.
Blackberries used to be the iPhone of their day. At first only the élite and the dedicated had them. Slowly the costs came down, and then everyone just had to own one. Much like their former rival Palm, RIM fell into a routine that became harder and harder to break that put them into a similar situation. For RIM — now corporately called Blackberry like their phones — the story of Palm is a cautionary tale of what may be to come.
This routine comes when an OS reaches maturity — simply put, there was no more room for improvement and a an overhaul was sorely needed under the hood. Overhauls cost money, however, and the if-it-ain’t-broken-don’t-fix-it mentality took over. The phones got cheaper over time, and the services that made the devices cool grew old and stale. They stuck to old hardware designs far too long, making their products bigger and bulkier than the competition’s. Third party software support and apps vanished, and eventually the money stopped rolling in.
Now comes make or break time for Blackberry — when they got to this point, Palm ultimately couldn’t pull it off. At first look, Blackberry seems to be taking a much better approach. Step One is making attractive hardware — the original Palm Pre was almost universally praised for its looks and, all things considered spec-wise, was released at a time where those specs weren’t necessarily everything when it came to phones. These are much different times, though, and the Z10 seems to have everything it needs to be a player in a game that now requires power next to beauty. Blackberry didn’t overlook that.
Second, consider apps and software.
When Palm showed off their shiny new WebOS at CES in 2009, people had never seen anything like it. The idea of everything working together and making things easier was a welcome change to contemporary smartphones that were mostly using the even-then antiquated Windows Mobile platform. Back then, Palm had a potential winner on its hands, and Blackberry seems to have one also, bringing some of its own ideas to the table along with integrating the non-negotiable features of modern phones. Blackberry seems to be winning the fight with app developers, too, having a stable of software ready to go for consumers — something that Palm and its WebOS was without.
Ultimately, Palm just couldn’t stay relevant, and that’s the battle in which Blackberry needs to concern most of its resources. Palm never seemed to figure out how to market their product in a way that resonated with the consumer, and in fact had some of the worst advertisements in recent memory. That, and Palm took too long to actually get its phone to market, and when they finally did it was on an unpopular carrier. Palm then added the underpowered Pixi to the lineup before finally releasing the Pre Plus which came more internal storage, more networks, and only some slight hardware changes.
Blackberry should take note of what to avoid by looking at Palm’s milestones to irrelevance.
I promised you my thoughts, so here they are: to no one’s doubt, Blackberry has a fight ahead of them. They are going into this fight with everything on the line, and, to their credit, have made it pretty clear they’re all in. I expect that these new products will by them some time, but the real key for their future success will be their plan for what comes next. What does a Blackberry look like next year? Two years from now? If they have answers in the pipes, then props to them. Until we see those answers, all they’re doing is going down swinging.