The BlackBerry is struggling to stay relevant. The cracks became visible when they started deviating from their usual advertising strategy and started trying to get non-corporate users to give its platform a try.
Maybe this was because Research in Motion (Rim), the company that makes the smartphones, knew that The Nielsen Company, Gartner, IDC and ChangeWave (all incredibly respected technology analysis firms) would be analysing their negative sales trends and letting the industry know of the clear decline in consumerist love for their product.
And this is not because smartphones are dying – their sales are now a quarter of the US mobile market according to Nielsen, which predicts they will outsell all other kinds of phones by the end of 2011.
Another study, reported by The Times’ Bits blog, puts smartphone growth at 64 per cent in the second quarter of this year alone.
The BlackBerry was a great idea back in the day. It was a corporate weapon, giving business users access to their email away from the computers. Their enterprise server and ‘push’ email technology ensured that an email was received almost as soon as it was sent.
It was always on and always connected. It was intuitive and more importantly, easy to use. They said that ‘even your dad could learn to use it’.
BlackBerry even made sure that their data was secure with 128 bit security. The BlackBerry Messenger was one of the phone chat clients, allowing users to chat on the go and making every legitimate owner a part of the larger BlackBerry community.
The only problem is that now other smartphones do everything that the BlackBerrys can, and usually better. These new phones house processors that are as fast as those found in personal computers a few years back.
Apple and Android smartphones offer push emails and are incredibly easy to use. They give you unlimited access to the internet via 3G connections and they have chat clients that surpass the BlackBerry equivalent in every possible way. Just imagine having MSN, Yahoo and every chat messenger service on the internet, simultaneously at your fingertips.
Security-wise, smartphones can be as safe as they want. Forrester Research has found that the iPhone is now secure enough and meets the criteria of most corporate IT departments.
Standard Chartered, for example, is replacing the BlackBerry – its current standard corporate communications device – with the iPhone, according to Reuters. This move could eventually result in thousands of bankers, and eventually other corporations, switching to other smartphones for their on-the-go business communication needs.
A recent advertisement showed men in black suits singing about with their Blackberry, when a bunch of very non-corporate types start pouring in, dancing and singing along with them. The men in suits seemed pretty disconcerted and surprised because they are no longer the focus of the company.
Ironically, this is precisely how Rim must feel like right now: outgunned, out of their element and not the focus of every business consumer.
Not to suggest that the company, or its products, are dead. It just means that they will have to take a new approach to compete with other smartphones that may have surpassed the BlackBerry on many counts.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.