Are BlackBerrys ever going to change?

Published: November 24, 2010

Earlier today, a very strong feeling of sorrow for RIM, the makers of BlackBerry, rushed through me. I was at a local Verizon store looking to upgrade, and had walked in planning to buy a BlackBerry Bold. I have plenty of Android devices and I'm ready for a little change, but for some reason, I couldn't follow through with it. I decided to buy a Droid Pro instead, the supposed BlackBerry killer (due to its similar keyboard). Seeing a device being nicknamed the "BlackBerry killer" could spell doom for an already downward-spiraling company. They've been ousted from their US market share throne by Android, and now we see Android adapting to many different form factors to account for those with certain wants and needs.

It kills me to say it, but BlackBerry has become stagnant. Being a long-time BlackBerry fanatic, it's tough for these thoughts to even cross my mind, but walking into a Verizon store and not being able to force myself to buy another BlackBerry says quite a bit. I have gone the past two weeks without carrying a BlackBerry, something I never thought I could do, and I'm feeling just fine, no twitching, random spasms, or convulsing. My constant problem with Android is never being able to find the perfect form factor for me, but the Droid Pro may fill that hole.

I remember rumor upon rumor of a similar candybar BlackBerry with a touchscreen and QWERTY keyboard, a device codenamed the Magnum. The rumors spanned over a year, close to two, before we even saw a touchscreen/QWERTY combination in RIM-made hardware. The Torch, while it wasn't a complete flop, it was too little too late. RIM sat on one basic wafer-style device with a superb QWERTY keyboard for far too long. They big everything on their deep enterprise roots and excellent email service. Now that's not much for them to lean on since most other smartphones offer similar services. They may not be as fulfilling as RIM's, but that doesn't really seem to make a noticeable difference to the masses. They want apps, games, and mass media consumption, not a simple business phone.

A perfect example of the matter at hand is the most recent release of the Bold 9780 on T-Mobile and pending release on AT&T. The 9780 is a successor to the popular 9700, but upon inspecting both devices top to bottom, you will find no visual differences. Even on the insides, there are very little differences (mainly just capacity). This is where the first of RIM's many problems start.

When they originated, they were innovative and kept things fresh with new designs, what was pushing the limits back then. Today, they are slow-moving, resistant to much needed change, and following in the footsteps of other manufacturers instead of leading. This laissez-attitude from them has driven a lot of long-time 'Berryheads away. Even though I'm not currently carrying a BlackBerry, I don't hate RIM. I still love them, and I have faith in them, but in order for them to keep from pulling a Palm, they're going to have to put it in gear. The PlayBook is a great start for them, but it's truly a make or break device for a lot of people. If RIM botches another device release, it could spell death for everyone's full-QWERTY favorite.

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