There's always something about the underdog that jerks at my heartstrings, no matter the event or situation. I care nothing about football, yet every year for the Super Bowl, I pull for the less likely team to win. The same goes for hockey, which is probably why I'm a huge Carolina Hurricanes fan. It could also be because I'm a proud North Carolinian cheering for the home team. But I digress.
The same can be applied to the mobile realm, where Windows Phone and the former king (at least stateside), BlackBerry, are duking it out for a shot at the third platform of choice and, in turn, the third ecosystem. Windows Phone 8 is near completion and will begin to launch towards the end of next month. At the BlackBerry Jam developers conference yesterday, Research In Motion revealed that it is also readying its guns, beginning carrier testing for BlackBerry 10 next month. However, RIM's new platform will not be available to consumers until Q1 2013.
This time, both Windows Phone and BlackBerry are the underdogs … and I'm cheering for them both. That said, Research In Motion and Microsoft are going about this race to mobile relevancy quite differently.
Microsoft arrogantly refuses to believe that their mobile platform is anything but the best, that the market share will happen in due time once people see how great the software is. Research In Motion is trying to regain its old following by slowly teasing new features and building hype internally to cause waves outside the Waterloo-based headquarters.
Both methods have their advantages. As bullheaded as Microsoft may seem, their confidence instills a bit of curiosity in the consumer – it's the hare in this situation. They leave consumers asking, "What could Microsoft have that's so great?" And their upcoming arsenal of colorful signature devices from partners helps to turn a few heads, too.
RIM, on the other hand, is the timid, modest and more sensible competitor – the tortoise. The Verge reported yesterday a few quotes from Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins. Said Heins:
"We have a clear shot at being the number three platform on the market. We're not just another open platform on the market, we are BlackBerry."
Don't get me wrong, I really like Heins. Initially, I wasn't sure of his capacity to take over as RIM CEO. He originally said "I don't think there is some drastic change needed [with the company]" during a conference call shortly after taking over the reins. Over the last few months, however, Heins has proven his aptness as CEO, clearly getting more done in a few short months than the butting heads of Lazaridis and Balsillie did over the last three years. (Execution is everything.)
From what I can tell, he's a charismatic, reasonable person with realistic aspirations for the Waterloo-based firm. Turns out, there may not be a better man for the job as RIM CEO. But I have a recurring problem with the words that come out of Heins' mouth.
"We have a clear shot at being the number three platform on the market."
When asked why he's shooting for third rather than first or second, he answered, "You climb a mountain step by step." Very true, and I'm sure RIM has its sights set higher than it's willing to allude just yet. Heins explained that RIM is more interested in being the number one in mobile computing versus having the number one smartphone. But Heins' modesty radiates the feeling that their platform may be second rate, that BlackBerry 10 isn't of the same caliber as iOS 6 or Android 4.1.
I can come up with at least a dozen ways to convey the same message without mentioning "the number three platform." For instance, "We have a clear shot at competing alongside iOS and Android in the market." It serves as a slight towards Windows Phone, ignoring its existence, and removes any hint that BlackBerry 10 isn't quite as refined as the top two platforms.
I've been watching BlackBerry 10 demo videos all morning, and I have to say I'm quite impressed. While no one can speak on hardware just yet, the software side looks fantastic. And BlackBerry Hub has struck a nostalgic nerve with its universal inbox. I have high hopes for RIM.
But if I am to be perfectly honest, I still have my sights set on the Lumia 920 or the Windows Phone 8X over a BlackBerry 10 device. I'm not so sure slow and steady can win the race this time around, nor can batting timid eyelashes or a cheesy music video to developers.
I still have a deep-seeded love for Research In Motion, and I will continue to pull for them until they either strike gold again or capsize. But right now, the mountain they're climbing – step by step – is getting steeper by the moment.
Image via CrackBerry