I still have a lot of questions about BlackBerry’s newest mobile operating system. Quite a few of them have to do with the OS itself, but I’ll get those answered when I have a device in my hand. The majority of them, though, relate to the OS and the consumer. On January 30, BlackBerry put together a strong announcement, even did a great job of showing off plenty of BlackBerry 10’s features. They did a good job of showing off the gestures, how they work, and how they make BlackBerry 10 unlike any other mobile OS currently available on the market.
Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that I think I have fallen in love with another doomed mobile operating system. I’m referencing Palm’s, and later HP’s, webOS. While Open webOS is something that exists, and can hopefully take off in some capacity at a later date, it isn’t quite the same thing. Not to the consumer, anyway. webOS is dead, for all intents and purposes, and those who were using the OS have probably moved on to something else.
Right now, if you were to look at any of the major wireless carrier’s websites, you’d notice one thing: There are a lot of Android handsets. That’s the same for pretty much any carrier around the world. Google’s mobile operating system has taken the world by storm, and we honesty have a lot to thank for that. Without Google and Android’s notification shade, iOS wouldn’t have its Notification Center – a feature that’s now found its way to Apple’s desktop offering, Mac OS X. If it weren’t for Google’s Android mobile platform, we likely wouldn’t be in an arm’s race to nowhere with our physical specifications.
Let’s face it, Android put specs front-and-center, and the populace ate it up. We love hardware now, way more than ever before. I’ll admit that I’ve become a pixel junkie, and that has everything to do with Android pushing manufacturers to make better displays. Sure, Apple changed the game with its Retina display, but just look at what it has become since that particular feature’s introduction to the market. Android has pushed it to its (current) limits.
That isn’t to say that Apple’s iPhone hasn’t taken its more than generous share of the wireless market, because we all know it has. Apple continues to post ridiculous sales numbers, even if we’re all in agreement that iOS has become long-in-the-tooth. The iPhone is a safe bet for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s the phone for “old people,” either. iOS has been pegged as the stable OS, and that counts for quite a bit over the years.
When BlackBerry was still RIM, they released a phone that I’ll always love. It was the BlackBerry Bold 9900, and it launched RIM’s supposedly next-generation mobile OS, BlackBerry 7, into the world. Unfortunately, the OS itself was just too similar to its former iterations, and it didn’t catch on. That’s a real shame, because the truth of the matter is the Bold 9900, and its direct siblings, was a ridiculously nice piece of hardware. No, it didn’t have the best camera, but the phone itself was amazing. It was quick, thanks to the OS itself, and the physical keyboard was just second-to-none.
That’s the last time I remember BlackBerry being in the news for anything even remotely positive. Since then, the news has been dire. Talks of hardware sales. Operating system licensing. There was a shuffle of executives (which isn’t all that dire). But, the worst part was BlackBerry 10’s delay. A year delay, in fact. (And then some, unfortunately.) Actually, it was one year ago today that our own Taylor Martin wrote a piece on the BlackBerry London, the leaked handset that would eventually become the BlackBerry Z10 we know today. Martin said he’d buy a London back then, but only if it launched back then. Waiting a year for it, he feared, would just leave it in the dust of BlackBerry’s competitors.
I think that piece is still fitting today.
This is where I should say that those BlackBerry fans from two years ago have moved on. This is where I should point out that Google and Apple have just gained too much traction in the absence of BlackBerry 10 devices. This is where I should say that even Windows Phone has been able to snatch away potential BlackBerry 10 owners, simply by filling that gap.
Instead, I’ll just point out that the BlackBerry Bold 9930, and Bold 9900, launched in August of 2011. And, even if we are talking about potentially dropping contracts in the year 2013, we weren’t talking about that in 2011. (Not as seriously as we are these days, anyway.) The folks who picked up a BlackBerry Bold 9900 series in August, or maybe even in September, won’t even be seeing the end of their contract date until those same months this year, which is at least five months after the BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry 10 launch in the United States. That gives plenty of time for BlackBerry to market BlackBerry 10 to those exact customers.
Contracts are always winding down, though. And, some people will do anything they can to get out of their contracts, or to find new phones. It’s perfectly possible to assume that many of those two-year contracts have been altered in some way or another to benefit the customer, or have been scrapped altogether. I had to make the point that it hasn’t been two years since the launch of BlackBerry 7, simply because it’s worth pointing out. It is possible that there are still BlackBerry carrying fans out there, just waiting for their contract to end so they can upgrade to the newest version of their current OS.
But, that’s not what we want to look at right now. Instead, we need to ask a bigger question for BlackBerry and BlackBerry 10. Just getting old customers to switch to the new operating system, or effectively upgrading, isn’t enough. BlackBerry needs to get people to switch. People need to want to leave their current mobile OS of choice in favor of BlackBerry 10. And that’s something that I’m trying to answer, and yet can’t quite come to terms with.
BlackBerry 10 has gestures, and that’s fantastic. I love gestures, and I hope you do, too. But if we’re looking at the hardware specifications, the BlackBerry Z10 doesn’t stand out. Yes, the phone works perfectly fine, and it’s smooth, and all of that good stuff. But it doesn’t stand out. It’s “as good” as other devices on the market, processor wise, for instance. 2GB of RAM? Had it been just a few months sooner, then yeah, the Z10 would stand out. Will it just be another device in March? Yes, yes it will be.
The hardware isn’t going to kill BlackBerry, or BlackBerry 10. Not by a longshot. Like I said, the operating system runs great with the hardware it’s on, and that counts for a lot when you get your hands on it, and use it for an extended period of time. But if someone looks at a spec card in a retail store and sees dual-core, next to an Android phone that has a quad-core . . . Well, I’ve seen how that goes with other phones, and (start sarcasm) bigger numbers means better performance more often than not (end sarcasm).
Just look at smartphone camera megapixels.
So I want you to tell me, Dear Reader. For the general consumer, and not necessarily someone who’s knee-deep in Enterprise situations, why would someone using an Android device in March, like a Galaxy S III or an HTC One X, switch from Google’s mobile OS to BlackBerry 10? Is there a reason that stands out to you? I’m very curious what you have to say, so let me know.