‘January 30th, 2013 marks the beginning of a new era for RIM’ - it says on Blackberry's website - and they’d better be right. 2012 saw the company racking up significant losses after a period of profit. They are hoping to mark this new era with the launch of their new Blackberry 10 which Thorsten Heins, chief executive of Research In Motion Ltd, will reveal in New York tomorrow.
As I’m sure you all know, for a large amount of the first decade of the millenium Blackberry has been the phone of choice for on-the-go business people. Corporate managers liked the phones because they're relatively secure and easy to manage. Employees also loved them because of their physical keyboards that were easy to type on and then they got a new lease of life in the hands of 'prosumers' - those who use the handset for personal use. People got so addicted to the damn device that it was dubbed the ‘Crack-berry’; their worldwide user-ship peaking at 80 million in the third quarter of ’07. But after the launch of the iPhone - also in 2007 - Blackberry’s popularity began to decline. Phone-users started to realise that the new smartphones (from both Apple and Android devices) were offering a hell of a lot more than their Blackberry's.
Repeated delays bought about by an institutional reluctance to change have left the once-pioneering BlackBerry well in the shadow of Apple's iPhone and Android devices. In the U.S., according to research firm IDC, shipments of BlackBerry phones plummeted from 46% of the market in 2008 to 2% in 2012. Ouch.
The life and times of RIMResearch in Motion was founded on 7th March 1984 by Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin. Their formative years saw the competition with Apple, Microsoft and Palm begin: with RIM coming out on top. They saw the importance of instant mobile communication; they would see voids in the market, whether it was two-way paging or mobile email, and fill it! Hm, shame that pioneering culture didn’t last.
The next few decades saw the emergence of a system that wirelessly displayed information on a TV screen and the arrival of one of the earliest wireless data networks, Mobitex. Software deals to support Mobitex led to the 1993 launch of RIMGate, the precursor to BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Few other companies were as actively interested in mobile data at the time (apart from IBM, whose smartphone-like Simon Personal Communicator went on sale briefly in 1994 but still depended on a 2,400-baud modem for data) and that suited RIM just fine. The company's first mobile messaging device, the RIM 900 Inter@ctive Pager came in 1996 followed by the smaller and more successful RIM 950 in 1998.
But it was the RIM 957 (wow these names are snappy, eh!?), launched in 2000, that first resembled what we think of as a Blackberry – but it only offered data. The BlackBerry era-proper started in March 2002 when RIM unveiled the BlackBerry 5810. Colour came in 2003, but the real breakthroughs were the 6200 series from that year and the 7100 in 2004, which were explicitly targeted at ‘prosumers’. In 2005 the sleek and sexy design came to a head: the 7100 offered a polished design, phone features and a full keyboard all in one device. But it wasn’t all rosy for Blackberry as Nokia, Palm and others were hot on their heels and about to throw themselves into the smartphone market. And we all know what happened in 2007 (the launch of the iPhone, duh) and, well, the rest is history! That’s why.
All eyes (and a lot of dollar) rest on you, BB10
So, there’s a hellova lot resting on the new Blackberry 10 which is coming out in the form of two handsets: the fully touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 and the QWERTY keyboard BlackBerry X10. Blackberry are remaining loyal to their keyboard loving customers while offering a slick touchscreen for the masses: covering all bases, you might say. Even the keyboard on their Z10 is reminiscent of their old handsets: there is a silver line dividing the letters – which is supposed to mirror the Bold range.
The Blackberry AppWorld is worth mentioning. It’s getting a spruce-up with a smarter, cleaner design to showcase their range of new apps. They will also be competing with Google Play and iTunes allowing their customers the chance to purchase and download music and videos. Another fantastic feature of the new-look AppWorld is the chance for companies to offer specific work apps - for instance an app to unlock the door to the office.
The BB10 8MP camera is also definitely something new; especially the 'Time Shift' feature, which allows you to select the perfect pose after the photo has been taken. You can tap on a face in the pic and literally roll back time to find the point at which your friend wasn't pulling a grim, eye-closed, gaping-mouth pose. If there is more than one person in the pic, you can adjust them individually. Fingers crossed it doesn't get too 'Back to the Future-ish'. Euw.
Ok, Ok, enough of the nitty gritty – what does it look like, what does it feel like? The smooth and slick interface and very well integrated Operating System will make the BB10 a serious competitor to its smartphone rivals. In fact, it’s already making a difference. RIM's stock has nearly tripled to $16.18 from a nine-year low in September which is good news - although this is still nearly 90% below its 2008 peak of $147. What a roller-coaster.
‘The highly competitive smartphone market will only offer them a short window... and they’ll need to prove themselves in the face of a simultaneous onslaught of marketing from Microsoft, not to mention the continued push from Apple plus Google and its Android partners,’ wrote Charles Golvin of Forrester Research. ‘This is a gargantuan challenge for a company of RIM’s size.’
Still, it’s looking good for the moment, Blackberry. Let’s just hope these new handsets are as good as they sound and believe that once again we’ll hear the loving nickname ‘Crack-berry’ blowing on the wind. We think you’ve got a pretty good chance, too. In this phone Blackberry shows its ability to evolve while also retaining key, trusted features which keep its customers loyal. Perfect.
Oh and if you do decide to treat yourself to a new BB10 don’t forget to "sell my mobile" with us at OnRecycle to help fund your new handset. We offer the best price, guaranteed! And don't forget to 'like' us on Facebook!