RIM's New BlackBerry Looks Great, But The Odds Are Against It

Business Insider

Today we saw the biggest leak yet for RIM's next BlackBerry phone, the so-called L-Series.

(In case you missed it, you can check out leaked photos and video of the L-Series right here.)

The hardware looks really nice and the new BlackBerry 10 operating system seems to have finally caught up with the iPhone's iOS software and Android. In short, it seems like the new BB10 phone will be able to go toe-to-toe with the best Apple, Google, Samsung, HTC, and all the other big guys have to offer.

Too bad for RIM that chances are still pretty good its new phone only has a modest chance at becoming successful. (Most analysts agree.)

As we've seen before, making a new mobile operating system that's just as good as iOS or Android isn't good enough. For example, Windows Phone 8 is a great operating system. With the exception of its poor app selection, it's just as functional as the iPhone or any top-tier Android phone you can buy today. But consumers don't seem to care. The latest numbers we have show Windows Phone holding just 3% of smartphone market share in the U.S.

Still, RIM expects BB10 to be the number three mobile operating system next year.

Here are three reasons why that won't happen:

  1. BB10 is at least two years overdue, giving consumers plenty of time to adopt iOS or Android as their platform of choice.
  2. Most developers still prefer to make apps for iPhone first and Android second. It's going to be nearly impossible* to convince developers to make the latest and greatest apps for a brand new operating system no one is using yet. And without apps, people won't want to buy the phone. And if people don't buy the phone, developers won't want to make apps for it. And so forth...
  3. BB10 has some unique features, but nothing groundbreaking enough to make someone want to abandon their iPhone or Android.

Still, a lot of BlackBerry fans out there will say this is flat-out wrong. They'll say people are dying for an alternative to Android, iOS, or even Windows Phone. They'll say BlackBerry 10 will be a huge hit because it has a handful of nifty features that you can't get on other phones. They'll say enterprise users will flock back to BlackBerry with the launch of BB10, even though big companies like Yahoo are ditching BlackBerry and letting employees choose their own device.

That thinking is just plain wrong.

Maybe if RIM was able to pull off this phone two or more years ago, those arguments would hold up. Unfortunately for RIM, BB10 will launch into a crowded market dominated by Apple and Google. We haven't seen anything from BB10 yet that makes us say, "Oh, wow, I need that!"

Yes, BB10 isn't 100% finished. There's always a (very) slight chance RIM could wow us with something insanely innovative when it formally announces the new BlackBerry phone on Jan. 30.

But keep in mind RIM has shown off BB10's most important features already. Developers and bloggers have been using BB10 on test devices for months. Carriers are currently testing the software. It's all but finished.

The most likely scenario now seems to be BlackBerry 10 will be just good enough to keep RIM afloat.

*Well, maybe not entirely impossible. RIM could decide to start paying developers to make apps for BB10. Or it can promise to heavily promote apps in its app store. Or it can make apps for popular services by licensing the APIs. Or a combination of all of those things.



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