Blog Post

BlackBerry 6: Lipstick on a Pig?

Research In Motion this week is expected to unveil a new touchscreen BlackBerry and upgraded version of its flagship platform in the hopes of better competing with Apple and Google. But as I discuss in my weekly column over at GigaOM Pro, there’s little chance the aging BlackBerry OS will be a worthy adversary of its younger, more sophisticated counterparts.

RIM’s ability to ride the surging smartphone tide and expand beyond the boardroom has been impressive, but momentum is slowing. BlackBerry’s share of the U.S. smartphone market has fallen a precipitous 14 points in the last year, according to recent figures from Gartner. Indeed, Forbes earlier this year predicted the iPhone will overtake BlackBerry’s share of the worldwide handset market by early next year.

As anyone who has used a BlackBerry knows, there are several reasons the device is falling out of favor. BlackBerry OS has failed to support the kind of rich-media that lures consumers. And the platform’s inferior web browser is so slow and kludgy it has more in common with a feature phone than, say, Apple’s Safari. That lack of consumer-friendly features has become costly for RIM because employers are increasingly letting employees choose their own phones as the lines blur between work and play.

BlackBerry’s most glaring weaknesses can be addressed — or perhaps even erased — if the company produces a world-class version of its OS. Indeed, early reports indicate RIM has finally developed a smartphone-worthy browser a full year after acquiring the startup Torch Mobile.

But it’s unlikely that it’s even possible for RIM to compete with the newer platforms. BlackBerry OS is a dated platform built to support enterprise applications and to “mobilize” corporate email — not to deliver high-quality multimedia or a compelling web experience. So while BlackBerry 6 may add some bells and whistles, the OS simply can’t keep pace technologically with younger platforms. Unless RIM has a huge surprise up its sleeve in the form of an entirely new OS — and there’s no indication it does — upgrading the platform is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig whose wrinkles become more apparent by the day.

Read the full post here.

Image courtesy Flickr user Reverend Aviator.

18 Responses to “BlackBerry 6: Lipstick on a Pig?”

  1. I think Android is going to be rough competition for mainly 1 reason, you can put it on multiple handsets from multiple providers.. its like windows on pc’s. When anybody could make hardware and load this software it took over.. Doesn’t mean its the best, might not be stable or even well done (win me, vista), but when you can run it on just about any device it doesn’t seam to matter. Look at all the garbage windows users deal with on a daily basis and they wont change. and the apps being open source makes it more lucrative also..

  2. We clearly have to see what it is and how well it works when we can play with it. RIM has a good hold on the business market, but they will have to perform some real magic if they want to move beyond that

    I’m also interesting in how good their SDK is and what value developers will see in supporting the platform. If this doesn’t work for them I can imagine a need to port their core features to Android and sell a hybrid phone.

  3. mikeeeee

    a bb9800 with UMA calling from t-mo is all i need.

    being transfixed to a hand sized device more than i absolutely have to is wasting my remaining precious minutes.

    call me, email me, text me, let me know what i need to know when i need it, that’s enough.

  4. I don’t agree with the argument that BB 6.0 is not up to the mark because it was not built from scratch. The main proposition of a BB still remains e-mail and BlackBerry Messenger and even after the fourth iteration of the iPhone, BlackBerry users have stuck to it.

    Agreed, the web browser and multimedia features were missing, but BB 6.0 will bring those features. So why build a completely new OS? In fact, even app integration, like Twitter, is better on BB OS than on any other OS.

    One company that really needs to start building an OS from scratch is Nokia. I’m not sure if MeeGo is the solution. What they need is an OS that brings something new to the table like iOS did in 2007, rather than being a trend follower.

  5. I’ve never used a blackberry so no bias here, but it seems a but unfair to write the new OS off before it even launches -at least not without a better explanation. The best attempt at an explanation seems to me to be the but about the OS not being built from scratch. At the very least I would expect a link to back up this suggestion. What makes the author think it won’t be built from scratch and even if that’s true what makes him think RIM can’t do enough without building from scratch? I would just have liked a little more analysis that’s all.

  6. Blackberry is still the workhouse. I get more real work done than my friends with ANDROID OR IPHONES.

    *Easy tethering
    *Blackberry has UMA – (make free calls through 802.11)
    *Blackberry allows you to turn phone off and leave wifi on which is great for international travel
    *I have made conference calls with up to 4 people while receiving email and sending text messages.

  7. It’s Christensen and the Innovators Dilemma all over again, again.

    How do we join the new without cannibalizing the old?

    But everyone jumps up and down, screams and hollers, calls other people stupid (or is it stupid ignorant), and raves about RIM’s huge installed base, strong sales, and deep corporate momentum – sure sounds like DEC in 1988 doesn’t it?

  8. Wow – what a stupid post – not something expected @gigaom
    What do you mean by world class version of OS??

    The email application in Blackberry is well thought of – Blackberry OS still has the ability to run quality multimedia applications !

  9. I was just working on my own blog post about this. Blackberry seems to be pushing their proprietary messenger platform as a competitive advantage. The messenger platform is device specific and doesn’t even work on a desktop like Google Talk, MSN, or Yahoo. If you’re concerned about security use Skype but pretty much anything works better than BBM.

  10. Monica L.

    The Stupid ignorant people who write this non-sense need to read!!! How about QNX? Oh yeah that’s right RIM is just going to buy them for no odd reason, only the fact that the CEO said that they were going to put the best of the 2 together! Gaming, Flash, Multimedia!!! Don’t write an Article unless you have facts, Stupid people and their iphone’s that obviously don’t have a clue!

  11. Ah Forbes…

    Apple smartphone marketshare down from 16% to 14% this quarter. RIM steady at 19%.


    The sad thing is that you actually think that it’s whoever has the very best OS that will win. How tragically naive.

    • WebOS is probably the best OS, but I’m not saying that one will win. Android will win, because all other major phone companies are adopting it, and because they have much bigger success with it than they would have otherwise.

      And all this is before Android 3.0 Gingerbread launches, which I believe will create an even bigger “spike” in Android’s market share growth.

      RIM still has the enterprise secured for now, but Android and iOS are already starting to eat into that market as well. Enterprise markets are not that different from consumer markets, they just lag behind a few years.

      RIM is doing the same mistakes Nokia has done by continuing to improve on an old OS for too long, instead of starting from scratch immediately when the iPhone appeared. They just don’t seem to understand they are experiencing a paradigm shift, which means the old technology is in danger of becoming obsolete.

      • Lucina, you’re wrong.

        First of all please can you describe exactly how much penetration iOS and Android have in enterprise as a corporate platform? I’m not talking about linking in the Marketing Director’s iPhone as a concession, I’m talking about mainstream front line use.

        Actually I’ll save you the bother – it’s absolutely negligible. Also enterprise markets do not lag consumer trends at all. They’re entirely different markets.

        The other point you miss is that RIM’s subscriber growth mainly comes from individuals not corporations so your analysis is more than a little off.

        Finally, it’s interesting you regard Nokia as making a mistake holding onto Symbian when they’ve increased market share for the four last consecutive quarters with no meaningful high end presence.

        There isn’t a paradigm shift. There was four years ago and now everyone has caught up. That’s why Apple’s share is stagnating.

        Unfortunately you seem to fall into the camp that confuses a UI with an OS. Sadly you’re not alone there.

    • Agree, iPhone is toast, but disagree that iPhone is the best OS- iPhone is more like Lipstick on a Tiara-Wearing Digitally Clueless Beauty Pageant Queen (thanks Verizon Wireless Droid Does ad). Talk about dated platform- it took 3 years for the iPhone to have some pseudo-multitasking. Now, the first question even more people now ask iPhone owners is: “Can it make calls?” Maybe the next iPhone will be able to make phone calls, that would be innovative for Apple- Lame. Blackberry’s got real enterprise sewed up- compliance and security on the iPhone is a joke. Android’s picking up the consumers. Apple continues to be some niche computer company.