Job number one at BlackBerry: Beat Windows Phone 8

Going by the headlines and the tone of the news coverage, BlackBerry’s long-awaited product announcement went well.

The company’s – Research in Motion changed its name – new slab-like Z10 smartphones are already on sale in the UK with Canada to follow next week and the US soon after.

New Zealand is probably well down the list. By the time the new phones get here we’ll know if the company has a future. I wouldn’t put money on it.

A more traditional BlackBerry model with a tiny QWERTY keyboard, the Q10, is due to go on sale in April. If the Z10 fails to catch fire, then the Q10 will be the company’s last roll of the dice.

BlackBerry’s short-term goal will be to beat Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 into third place in the smartphone market behind Android and Apple. If it gets there, it has a chance of staying relevant.

The ace up BlackBerry’s sleeve is a large pool of dedicated crackberry addicts. Some have waited until now to upgrade their existing phones. If BlackBerry can win this market, it’ll stay in the game long enough to take a shot at Microsoft. 

Most observers will tell you the lack of available apps for the new phones is a barrier. That’s less of a problem than you might think. There may be more than a million iPhone apps, but 99% are rubbish. It is more important to have the right apps for the target market.

Windows Phone 8 smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 920 are arguably better than competing Apple or Android models at the moment. They’re selling well, but have failed to make the critical breakthrough. BlackBerry won’t make that any easier.

Microsoft will survive even if it fails in the smartphone game, BlackBerry doesn’t have the advantage of alternative product lines to bail it out. Nor does Nokia.

11 thoughts on “Job number one at BlackBerry: Beat Windows Phone 8

  1. I am tossing up between a Nexus 4 and a Z10. I think I’ll go with the Z10, I’ve had an Android phone for what will be 3 years when it comes time to swap.

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      • Windows Phone was on the table until I learned there is no notification centre other than using the live tiles. I would still love to try all 3 out (920) for a week each and see what they bring to the table. As you can appreciate, having you write a piece about WP doesn’t give you the picture as I would see it.

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    • Interesting @beaverusiv. What attracts you to the Z10 over the Nexus 4? I’ve been using a Nexus 7 for the last month or so. When I turned it on for the first time, the update from Jelly Bean 4.1 to 4.2.1 was almost immediate and very smooth. I’m also loving the stock Android experience. It’s time the OEM’s retired their overlays. For these reasons alone I’d pick the Nexus 4. I’m interested to hear what the Z10 has that you feel the Nexus 4 lacks. Hardware I imagine.

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      • “I’ve had an Android phone for what will be 3 years”
        ^That.

        I use CyanogenMod almost exclusively (I think I turned it on and used stock for a few minutes when I first got it) so I am not too knowledgeable on UI Skins, but I think it’s more they need to get their A into G rather than stop. Nexus line is for pure Android; it would completely cannibalise OEM sales if people had to have vanilla.

        It’s not that the Nexus 4 lacks anything, I’m just ready for a paradigm change. I do it on my computers too, that’s what I love about Linux; KDE one week, Cinnamon the next.

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      • I also have a Transformer Infinity which technically isn’t mine so it’s stock, but I’ve heard ASUS doesn’t so much other than install their minimal bloatware.

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  2. It is very hard to read the market (mainly because it is so big a full of different demographics, most of which I am not a part of), all I can say is what I wish:

    I wish Android would calm down; I want it to do mid-range and low range well. It will be a solid choice – nothing wrong with it – but if you had the money there are better options (like how a ford is a nice option and nothing to be embarrassed about, but you’d upgrade to a jaguar if you could).

    I wish iOS would be a niche device, which it is everywhere but USA imo, so keep on keepin’ on Apple.

    I wish WP became high end; I frankly don’t know what is stopping them, other than inertia??

    I wish BB would take corporate again; if you want to /do/ stuff on your phone, not just trade high scores in game-of-the-week you buy Blackberry. Email, online identity management and notifications, VPN, security and a UX that eschews fancy transitions for raw speed. I want to be able to put actions into muscle memory and quickly use them to perform complex actions without having to wait for the OS to finish minimising that dialog box.

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  3. Most reviews I’ve read concentrate on the silly, like how many apps–which, as you say, are 99% rubbish. I was disappointed that BB went all-out with its app developer portathons to get quantity over quality. And who knows if there isn’t malware in them?

    The reviewers are also disappointed in the Z10 camera–but by the time the holiday season rolls around this year, the must-have item will be full-featured cameras that have built-in WiFi capability and apps to upload instantly to FB, Twitter, etc., etc. I guess they’ll be Skype capable too, so why use a crappy phone camera for communication?

    I’ll probably end up waiting for the Q10, because I’m old-school!

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    • The developer incentives weren’t about getting as many apps as possible; it was about getting as many developers as possible. Most companies will ignore new stuff until they feel they have to deal with it. Giving incentives as holding events helps put BB into their minds when thinking app strategies and also lets them learn how BB want their apps developed with minimum training costs on the companies/developers.

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    • Good point.

      I’ve always though any technology market needs at least three players to be truly competitive. Android and iPhone may compete on one level, but I wouldn’t say they are locked in a technology arms race. Throwing Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry into that mix changes things a lot.

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