BlackBerry, once the leader in smartphone technology, has really slacked off significantly in the market it helped establish nearly a decade ago. At one time, it seemed everybody had a BlackBerry. Research In Motion, the Canadian company behind the device once termed “crackbery” because of its addictiveness, recently underwent major restructuring.
The future of the BlackBerry is heavily linked to its new operating system, BlackBerry 10, scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2013. Some of the features of the new OS were unofficially unveiled at BlackBerry World 2012, a recent marketing event. Many industry observers are calling the launch of the new OS and subsequent updated BlackBerry smartphone a critical point in the future of the device.
Where the Trouble Started
Trouble started for BlackBerry when users reported multiple issues with newer models, resulting in the unflattering nickname “trashberry.” Customers were further inconvenienced when service was disrupted for four days in 2011 due to what was described as a “major service failure.” This came on top of a $147 million patient infringement case that RIM lost to Mformation Technologies in 2008. Add to that competition for more successful smartphones by Apple and Android, and it’s easy to see why RIM is counting on a boost in sales and reputation with the new OS in 2013.
Facing the Competition
Rapid advances by both Apple and Android have eroded BlackBerry’s market share, especially since users want more than just an email-friendly phone these days. Sales of the device have dropped by more than 40 percent since 2007 in the United States alone. RIM’s stock has also tumbled, recently dropping to just below $10 a share. This is down from a high of more than $30 a share. The company has also lost a significant chuck of its developers. Although, RIM believes that everybody who was going to jump ship has already done so. Observers contend that the company still has a smaller group of loyal developers putting the finishing touches on the new operating system.
Betting on the New OS
Industry analysts are divided on the future of the once-thriving BlackBerry. There is a great divide among those who either predict a strong resurgence thanks to the new OS and those who predict the company’s signature device to crash and burn under the weight of stiff competition from Android and Apple. While details of the new OS have yet to be confirmed, some new features hinted at include a camera that can go back in time to make sure a shot is perfect, an adaptive keyboard, and an user interface that allows for better management of communications and the ability to quickly respond to notifications.
Counting on an Existing Customer
Base RIM CEO Thorsten Heins dismisses rumors of competition from a new generation iPad set to be released around the time the new BlackBerry OS comes out. Heins notes that BlackBerry already has an established customer base that will make it easier to sell the new OS to both existing customers and others currently using other smartphones on the market. The company has also had to deal with negative publicity from delays in its new platform to a high profile behind the scenes power transfer from RIM founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to Heins, who worked his way up to the top.
It remains to be seen if the new OS will return BlackBerry to its former glory. It depends on several factors. Just how loyal are customers going to be to an OS that has been delayed several times already? The other factor is what the competition is doing. This is a variable that can’t be controlled, but RIM hopes that the name BlackBerry still has enough clout left to recapture its market share. Here’s to 2013!