My favorite part about BlackBerry’s press event yesterday was realizing I wasn’t at a yard sale when Alicia Keys came on stage. Admittedly, it seemed like we were being pitched the value of a product we may never want but it was fun like most jackpot yard sales are. Here's everything. You'll find something valuable somewhere in here. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was a liquidation; I just felt like we now know everything about the new BlackBerry.
Do we need another operating system in the mobile arena? Probably not. But the owner of the house (CEO Thorsten Heins) was delivering a sales pitch to the fanboys. The product? Doesn’t matter. It could have been a new flavor of yogurt or spandex. It didn't matter because they had our attention anyway.
I guess it’s the perfect time to say that I believe in miracles and it might not be a coincidence anymore.
I’d imagine BlackBerry 10’s initial impact will be like meeting up with an old high school friend after you’ve gone through your college years or a significant amount of time had passed. He’s still a friend, but a lot happened in between. You've matured and you can’t go back to your old ways without a reason.
There are plenty of reasons to walk away from the unveiling of BlackBerry 10 feeling somewhat jipped. BlackBerry unveiled just two devices. Their OS refresh is so late it’s on the verge of feeling unwelcome. And as a consumer, I feel no different knowing the Q10 and Z10 will probably be making an appearance at all of the major wireless carriers. We saw Heins’ entire hand and it was everything it needed to be. Will he win? Well that depends on the flop of Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8. It also depends on what comes down the river. It’s an admirable approach for the Waterloo-based company that has been away from the table for so long that their chair was broken down and recycled. In the seat now sits Mr. Ballmer and his team of fast followers.
Amidst CEO Thorsten Heins’ descriptions of how easy BlackBerry 10 is to manage because of its “flow”, there’s an underlying message. BlackBerry re-branded itself on multiple fronts: as BlackBerry (not RIM), as the underdog, and as an innovator in the ever-expanding field of mobile operating systems. We don’t have many reasons to ask for a new way to use our smartphones, but we got it in the form of new gestures. Even if BlackBerry’s hardware isn’t a success, licensing BB10 as an operating system to OEMs is a route only Android has successfully managed to do, which leads me to my next point.
Heins attacked Android, but it wasn’t any reason to be alarmed. If Android is the United States with their powerful Army and nearly unlimited defense budget, BlackBerry is Costa Rica. They have no Army, but they’re the happiest country on the planet. And the moments leading up to the press event said it all. “This moment belongs to the employees,” said Heins. Way to go.
Now, Android has always had a sore spot when it came to security and BlackBerry knows this. Malware has made its appearance time and time again in the Google Play Store and we have brushed it off. It has always been addressed and the apps removed, but it’s a sore subject for the Mountain View company. Where Android faults, BB10 will be able to pick up the pieces. Enterprise security is BB10’s greatest chance of advancement on Android and their domination of the smartphone market. BlackBerry and security are like spaghetti and meatballs. Android is more like Hamburger Helper.
Heins also took another jab at security, but from a different angle and at a different opponent. He said, “we see people running around with two devices. That’s a problem that we aspire to solve. We call that Balance.” The Galaxy Note II is a mix of both worlds, a tablet and a smartphone, so clearly the introduction of BlackBerry Balance is aimed at Apple and the somewhat inconvenient truth that they have stood by for so long – that it’s normal to carry two devices. In this case, an iPhone and an iPad. Whether at home, or in the office, BlackBerry is a pitch that business should not require you to carry both. The Z10’s luscious 4.2-inch screen might not be the biggest in town, but it’s still bigger than the iPhone 5’s. And the Q10 will pick up right where the Bold left off. If you want a physical keyboard, and you like to touch your smartphone’s display, you won’t be left disappointed. It’s an option Apple can’t offer and neither can Windows Phone 8 which is where the real fight lies.
It’s no secret that Windows Phone 8 handsets come the closest to iPhone fluidity and organization. And with BlackBerry Flow, you’ll be able to observe true multitasking (albeit with a limit to the amount of active apps in the background) and manage what’s running. You’ll also be able to utilize those fluid gestures reminiscent of Windows RT tablet … but on your phone. Is this war? Most definitely. It'll be a miracle if Microsoft can hold our attention after this.
It might only be for less than 5-percent of the smartphone market, but BlackBerry is clearly attacking the lone ranger Windows Phone 8. Step back and look at the big picture and you’ll see where BlackBerry 10 garners a solid offense. BlackBerry Hub could be the strongest argument to Windows Phone 8’s notifications (or lack thereof). If you’re not in the application on your Windows device, it’s tough to tell what’s actually going on behind all of this flipping Live Tiles. To add insult to injury, BlackBerry Remember will show you flagged emails, shared web sites, dates and reminders, attachments, photos and even voice notes in one location. Opening multiple tiles to see what’s going on in each application is a thing of the past says BB10. BBM Video Chat and Screen Share are both features Windows barely matches with Skype. Windows can’t even match BlackBerry’s true multitasking and the ability to kill individual apps. Windows devices mandate the in-and-out approach to productivity, but not when BlackBerry 10 is around. The mere fact that BB10 will utilize Bing for all search and voice recognition is borderline insulting.
Initial impressions of the Q10 and Z10 in action are impressive. The hardware is top-notch. BB10 looks competitive in fluidity with iOS. The gestures look powerful because it’s the only smartphone operating system to offer such an experience (RIP webOS). There’s not much to dislike from the outside looking in. I’m definitely ready to make the jump to BB10.
What did you think of the BlackBerry press event? Were you left completely satisfied, or is it a case of too little and too late for the Waterloo-based company? Do you think it was a failed attack, or did they make up ground on their opponents? Let me know below!