Being the huge BlackBerry fanatic that I have been for a couple years now, BlackBerry 6 and the newly announced Torch are gray areas for me. Everyone says that RIM is dying out, the era of the BlackBerry is over, etc. They are undeniably in a huge slump and struggling to turn things around, but I'm not sure RIM has moved forward with full force nor do I believe they're about to pull a Palm. They're still a huge player worldwide and I don't believe getting bumped to #2 in the US marketshare is the end of the road.
I can remember getting my very first BlackBerry. I was 16 years-old and walked into the Alltel store, dissatisfied with the Motorola Q I had bought just days before. I traded the Q in for the Pearl and that's where it all began. Those were the days of BlackBerry. 2.0MP cameras, 64MB internal memory, two or three applications, and a browser that took two or more minutes to load a single web page. I was in heaven. At that point RIM had really just stumbled into the consumer side of the phone world, and rather clumsily. I remember the choice being between a few different Windows Mobile devices like the Mogul and either the BlackBerry Pearl or Curve. Everyone just had to have their CrackBerrys. Then, a year later came the iPhone and everything completely changed. Apple had created a media-centric device that focused on fun and simplicity. It was equipped with a large touchscreen display that no longer required tedious styluses and internal memory was measured in GB's rather than MB's. From that very day, RIM fell behind in the consumer smartphone world, and people have been throwing it in their face since.
From the videos I have seen and all the news that I have been covering on BBerryDog, BlackBerry 6 and the Torch seem to be a move in the right direction from RIM. They've focused on improving the bowser, media, and social aspects of the OS. Everything seems for flow together more seamlessly. The problem is, RIM is in need of much more than a tiny move in the right direction. BlackBerry 6, from what I can tell, will make do for now, but RIM better have something else up their sleeves. Universal search, social feeds, and nice, fluid UI's can all be found on any other mobile OS and does nothing to set them apart. The WebKit browser is nice, very nice, the hardware seems to be spot-on, and the platform is much easier to develop for, but does anyone care? Sure, push email and enterprise support still have enough traction to pull a few new users in, but that obviously isn't enough to win over the market anymore.
If I had to guess, there are two problems that RIM may have overlooked (only because there has been no mention of it). BlackBerry OS is the only OS that requires a reboot after you uninstall or update an application, and the boot time is agonizingly long. The smartphone world has been stormed with application support. A lot of people (including myself) like to install tons of apps and remove the ones that they don't like. Rebooting every time you uninstall an application becomes a nuisance and over time will begin to strike a nerve.
Over the past year I've tried out many different phones to see what all of the buzz has been about. I have found a new love for Android and webOS was pretty fun. I own an iPhone 4 right now, and it's simply not my cup of tea. After probing every other mobile OS out there, I know that RIM has a long ways to go before they'll be back on top or off of many consumers' blacklist. But I have learned that it isn't always about the best specs and the most applications. I enjoy Android and I'm still suffering from withdrawals from getting rid of my Nexus One, but I could live without Android. The one device I can't seem to let go of is my BlackBerry, and I'm not alone. There is still a huge following behind BlackBerry, and other smartphone users will never understand why.
I still have faith in RIM and can't wait to see BlackBerry 6. I just hope they're planning ahead and don't get caught on their heels again, they can't survive another blow like that. The major question at hand is, are they firing blanks? From what I see, no. Is it too little, too late? Maybe.