BlackBerry 10 – Enough to Save RIM?

eHow Tech Blog

RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins recently took the stage during the BlackBerry Jam conference to woo developers and get them excited about BlackBerry 10 — the company’s latest and greatest operating system that’s due out early next year. But RIM’s market share, and stock price, have tanked seemingly uncontrollably recently.

In fact, RIM’s current smartphone OS market share in the United States hovers at 9.5 percent, according to comScore, and that’s down 2.1 percentage points from the three-month period ended in April. Meanwhile, Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iOS are both on the rise. Android is sitting pretty at a 52.2 percent share, up 1.4 percentage points, while Apple’s is at 33.4 percent, up 2.0 percentage points.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is betting heavy on its Windows Phone platform. AT&T will exclusively carry the flagship Nokia Lumia 920 in November, and HTC will provide new Windows Phone devices on every carrier. This, meanwhile, is all happening while RIM still prepares its next operating system. So will its market share continue to decline? That depends on several factors.

First, RIM needs to deliver on BlackBerry 10. It needs to be flawless right out of the gate. The company doesn’t have time to upgrade like Microsoft has from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8. It needs to be comparable to, if not better than, Windows Phone 8, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and iOS 6.

From what I’ve seen so far, it’s pretty solid. But what’s missing? Apps. RIM’s Blackberry Playbook, the webOS and HP/Palm Pre devices and dozens of other products have failed not because they didn’t have great software, but because they didn’t have great apps. That’s why Thorsten is trying to keep developers excited and offering guaranteed cash incentives.

Let me backtrack a bit — webOS, as an operating system, was beautiful in nearly every way, but it failed because HP couldn’t get devices to market fast enough (a problem RIM is currently experiencing) and because, once it did, there was little you could do with the products. You couldn’t download the most popular games and apps that were also available on iOS or Android so, ultimately, consumers didn’t want the product.

RIM also needs to get its device on every U.S. carrier. I think it will, too. The company has already said that carriers are excited for the first BlackBerry 10 devices, which is a good thing. If it’s in front of people’s faces, they’ll be more inclined to buy it. Palm failed because it had either low-end devices or outdated devices on carrier shelves. That’s good for people on a budget, but not if a company wants to compete with flagship smartphones from competitors.

Ultimately, RIM also has to polish its name in consumer’s minds. These days, everyone talks about having “ditched a BlackBerry.” Consumers need to know that BlackBerry 10 is something completely different, something RIM has never done before.

So will RIM succeed? I think it has a huge uphill battle. It needs developers, apps, great devices, a flawless operating system, a huge carrier presence and to sway consumer’s back into loving its products.

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