Research In Motion(s rimm) continued to outline its BlackBerry 10 strategy on Wednesday at its annual developer event, saying customers will need to buy new phones for the BB 10 experience as the company confirmed it won’t be upgrading any BlackBerry 7 phones to the new operating system.
Phone Scoop noted that at this morning’s keynote session RIM CEO Thorstein Heins explained that BlackBerry 7 and BB 10 aren’t compatible platforms and that apps written for the current platform won’t work directly on the new one. This isn’t a complete surprise as RIM has been retooling its software ever since it purchased QNX in April of 2010; the company’s PlayBook tablet runs on QNX. But it certainly makes RIM’s “reboot” a little more challenge.
Palm(s hpq) and Microsoft(s msft) have recently tried this type of reboot and we know that didn’t work out for Palm. It’s too early to say whether or not the strategy of new phones for new software will help Microsoft’s efforts. So there’s already at least one, if not two, precedents suggesting that a complete device reinvention is risky at best.
The problem is that carriers and consumers are firmly entrenched in the iOS(s aapl) and Android(s goog) mindset, not to mention the ecosystem of both. In order to win customers over, does it make more sense to challenge the incumbents by updating current hardware or forcing customers to take another chance by investing in new hardware? Obviously, the former is the preferred choice. And this strategy could even hurt BlackBerry sales over the next 6 to 9 months as customers realize their device will be considered a legacy one before year end.
Again, this news isn’t a complete surprise, but it suggests that RIM’s strategy for the past two years has been short-sighted. As soon as it purchased QNX and began to build its new smartphone platform, the company should have thought farther out. Instead it debuted a stop-gap solution with BlackBerry 7 last year and also focused on tablet software in lieu of smartphones.
Had RIM skipped the PlayBook and devoted more resources to its phones, the BB 10 time-table might have been moved up. Instead, RIM is late to the game and asking customers to pay the price in the form of new handsets.