The BlackBerry 10 operating system, new phones and a new BlackBerry Enterprise Service are finally here, but they have come too late.
The BlackBerry Z10 does have some impressive features, including a 1.5 GHZ dual core processor, a 1280 x 768 screen and strong multitasking through BlackBerry Hub. The Q10 is coming out shortly to satisfy those who prefer typing on physical keyboards. The company seems to be rededicating itself to the enterprise; BlackBerry Enterprise Service (formerly BlackBerry Enterprise Server) now helps IT manage BlackBerry, iOS and Android devices. And BlackBerry still has the best encryption around.
So are you ready to dive back in and purchase a BlackBerry? Didn't think so.
BlackBerry has had its time and place in the world, and now it is time for it to go. BlackBerry has lost mindshare. Even though BlackBerry devices perform better than other comparable phones in some tests, consumers will not purchase BlackBerrys because they just aren't cool devices anymore. There are many other reasons why BlackBerry will fail:
The new OS took too long. It was almost three years ago that people were talking about the new QNX operating system (which BlackBerry 10 is based on) and how it was going to revolutionize the company. The OS didn't launch until this year. For BlackBerry to even have a chance, its new devices need to rival the next iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. Consumers will not wait years again for another iteration.
Poor marketing. Over the past few years, BlackBerry made constant promises of a new phone or tablet coming out soon, but kept delaying. As a result, the press seemed to focus on who was in and out as CEO and which billionaire investor was going to bail the company out -- not on the products themselves. BlackBerry's poor marketing strategy of the past few years damaged the company's consumer mindshare too much, and recent improvements aren't enough to boost sales now.
More on BlackBerry Enterprise Service
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Focusing on consumers instead of businesses. People liked BlackBerry phones because they were cool to use for business. It turned out that some consumer functions, such as texting, actually worked better on a phone with a physical keyboard, and that really caused the popularity of BlackBerry devices to soar. But BlackBerry's original focus was always on business users -- until the iPhone took over. Instead of improving its browser and enlarging devices' screens, BlackBerry started adding consumer-focused features, such as a music store, which never caught on.
BlackBerry's renewed focus on business is just too late. Businesses, especially in America, have already made the switch to iOS and Android. In the cases where BlackBerry is still the preferred platform, employees are putting increased pressure on their IT departments to offer other platforms. Even the federal government has made the switch to iOS in many departments.
BlackBerry Playbook. The BlackBerry PlayBook could have been exactly what the business world wanted: an IT-friendly tablet. But users had to sync their PlayBooks with a BlackBerry phone, there weren't many apps for the device, and it couldn't integrate with ActiveSync and other key infrastructure components. The failure of the PlayBook in the enterprise affects BlackBerry going forward, because formerly loyal companies are now forced to support other platforms if they want tablets.
Lack of apps. BlackBerry has done a great job of getting 70,000 apps in the BlackBerry World app store by allowing the porting of Android apps to BlackBerry 10. But developers are only going to build native apps where they can make money. If BlackBerry shows sustained success, that might entice some developers to write code for BlackBerry, but that success won't come without the native apps users want.
Believe or not, I am pulling for BlackBerry. The market is better with BlackBerry in it. But I am afraid its renewed efforts are just a little too late.
This was first published in May 2013