This has been a monumental week in the annals of mobile news. My staff and I attended two major tradeshows: Google I/O in San Francisco, and BlackBerry Live in Orlando. My assessment: Google I/O was stunning, but BlackBerry Live was kind of a bust. Let me tell you why.
At BlackBerry’s big keynote address on Tuesday morning, the company announced that it will bring its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) chat app to both Android and iOS devices this summer. That’s a big move for the company, but it’s dangerously close to too little, too late.
WhatsApp has offered this cross-platform support for years. How can BlackBerry hope to compete? I see a flop coming.It seems as though BlackBerry missed the boat on mobile messaging. BBM was huge back when seemingly everyone used BlackBerry devices, and it kinda makes sense to roll it out across platforms, right? Not really.
Worse, the company didn’t announce a new flagship smartphone. Instead, it introduced an entry-level device called the Q5 that it says will hit emerging markets. BlackBerry didn’t reveal a price, which is scary, but here’s another worrisome fact: BlackBerry already sells its older BlackBerry 5 devices in emerging markets. In all likelihood, they’re cheaper to build and cost less.
So, while the company says the Q5 is an emerging market device, it’s more likely a budget smartphone for developed markets that are beginning to fall to cheaper iOS and Android devices. BlackBerry would have been better off building additional excitement around its platform by revealing yet another flagship phone—a missed opportunity.
Of course, for every ying, there’s a yang. Let’s take a look at what another tech company–Google–did this week.
In summary, Google took the stage and blew our minds. While Android 4.3 wasn’t discussed at all, the search company announced new APIs that will make it easier than ever to create new apps for Android. It also revealed a new iOS and Android Maps application that will launch this summer; introduced Hangouts for cross-platform chat across Android, iOS, and the desktop (a key differentiator from BBM, which isn’t supported on the desktop); and a high-end Galaxy S4 developer edition smartphone.
Google didn’t stop at mobile. It completely rebuilt its Maps software from the ground-up, which now allows you to create custom maps, and even zoom out to an earth-level view with live cloud data. And there’s a new streaming music service that costs $7.99 per month (if you sign up for the 30-day free trial before June 30) that will compete head-to-head with Spotify and Rdio.
As if those announcements weren’t enough, Google also showed off enhancements that are being made to its Chrome web browser on both the desktop and mobile, and discussed how search is now smarter than ever. If you have a microphone, just say “Ok Google” and begin speaking to complete a search.
These are just a few of the new announcements—Google added 41 new features to Google+. I couldn’t possibly cover them all in a short article.
Here’s what’s shocking though: We have two tech companies that both consider themselves innovators in the tech space. But BlackBerry’s conference was barely a drop in the pool compared to what Google delivered during I/O.
If there’s any question about whether BlackBerry 10 or Android will win the mobile space, the answer—just comparing this week’s two events—is clear.
Next up? Apple. The company will show us iOS 7 and its chops during WWDC in June. How will it compare to Google’s show? I can’t wait to find out.