Like Zune, BlackBerry Storm Suffers From iEnvy

Everyone from Microsoft (s MSFT) to Verizon (s VZ) to Research in Motion (s RIMM) who suffers from Apple (s appl) envy need to learn one thing: If you want to beat Apple and its hit products, then you have to make products that are both game-changing and revolutionary, not me-too products with a few feature tweaks.

Microsoft came out with Zune to compete with the iPod, added a couple of features, and proved to be one giant money sink for Microsoft. After a 54 percent decline in sales in the most recent quarter, John Paczkowski rightfully dubs it: Zune to be forgotten. It’s the same story with the BlackBerry Storm. What was supposed to be a hurricane has so far turned out to be a mild tropical disturbance. The Wall Street Journal says the Storm is off to a bumpy start, and has sold about 500,000 devices in its first quarter.

Now if Research in Motion (and Verizon) were smart, they would have tried to do something incredibly different with their BlackBerry Storm. Instead they spent $100 million on marketing a product that got panned by critics, was buggy enough for customers to complain and more importantly, turned out to be nothing more than a wannabe iPhone. The problem most touchscreen phones face is that they will always be compared to Apple’s iPhone and for a myriad of reasons will fall short of expectations. It happened before in the music player market — where the iPod, with its ease of use and elegant design set, itself on a higher pedestal.

And when it comes to touchscreen phones, iPhone occupies a similar top spot. Don’t get me wrong: The iPhone is by no means perfect, and at least twice a day I curse the device and AT&T’s network. But the Storm is even worse — enough for me to touch the screen, wait and scream.

I often write about companies forgetting to play to their own strengths and instead trying to follow others. Storm (and Zune) are good examples of this corporate disease. Why does RIM need to have a touchscreen device? Just because Steve Jobs tweaked Verizon’s nose? Verizon and RIM would have been better served if they had built a device that had touch capabilities but really played to RIM’s strengths — keyboards, multitasking and security. I love the BlackBerry Bold. It’s almost perfect for someone like me who gets a massive amount of email, loves to IM on the go and likes to Twitter all the time. Marry it to a great browsing experience and pack in better battery life and an awesome radio — and it would clean up in the smartphone market.

Meanwhile, I’m looking to trade in the Bold for the new T-Mobile 8900 Curve!

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