1. onatewi's Avatar
    Interesting analysis

    BlackBerry 10: Research in slow motion

    BlackBerry 10: Research in slow motion
    PUBLISHED: 9 hours 32 MINUTES AGO | UPDATE: 3 hours 8 MINUTES AGO PUBLISHED: 08 May 2012 PRINT EDITION: 08 May 2012
    Share Links: email print -font +font John Davidson

    Thorsten Heins is a man under pressure.

    The company he runs, Research In Motion, is being abandoned by users, analysts and investors alike – last Friday, shares in RIM hit their lowest level since December 2003 – and what looks to be its one shot at salvation is still months away.

    That shot is BlackBerry 10, a completely new version of the BlackBerry software that, last decade, made RIM the one to beat in the smartphone business. For much of RIM’s existence, BlackBerry phones were regarded as the most prestigious, the most secure, the best emailers of all mobile phones. But as the current BlackBerry software is now some 15 years old, mostly they’re just regarded as old, and in dire need of a makeover.

    With BlackBerry 10 nearing completion, the pressure is on Heins to get it out before RIM’s competitors, formidable foes such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung, come out with something even newer and fancier.

    Apple’s next iPhone, almost certainly the iPhone 5, could be released as early as June this year, and if the BlackBerry 10 device doesn’t appear until after that, it may well be lost in the iPhone commotion.

    But Heins, a physicist by training, isn’t rushing, and he isn’t saying when the new phones will be released. “We’re taking our time to make sure we get this right,” he said at the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando last week.

    “Every day I get questions about the progress of BlackBerry 10, and I appreciate the interest . . . We’re nearing completion on BlackBerry 10. I know the schedule, I’ll stick to the guns right now [and insist] that quality matters. I want this BlackBerry 10 experience to be perfect. I want to wow people.”

    Last week, Heins showed off several features of the new software, including a camera that takes photos that can be rewound to a moment when the subject was smiling, and an on-screen keyboard that is designed to be almost as fast to type on as the physical BlackBerry keyboards that set the phones head and shoulders above its competitors in terms of emailing and messaging.

    (Those old physical keyboards, Heins went to pains to explain the day after demonstrating the on-screen keyboard, will still appear on many of the BlackBerry 10 devices.)

    While conference attendees were indeed “wowed”, and while third-party software developers in the crowd were all given a free phone running software similar to BlackBerry 10 so they could get a head start developing software for it, analysts were less impressed by the unfinished nature of the software.

    “A late 2012 introduction [of BlackBerry 10 phones] may be too late to capture lost market share in developed regions,” an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, Tim Long, says.

    Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair says: “If this [operating system] had come out three years ago, it might have mattered, but it’s hard to see any scenario where it changes RIM’s fate.

    “By the time BB10 handsets hit the market in [the fourth quarter], assuming they don’t get pushed out into 2013, RIM will be squarely facing the iPhone 5, a flood of new Android handsets at all price points, and a meaningful push of the Windows OS by a number of major carriers.”

    In the absence of a finished product, or partnerships with powerful allies, shares in RIM fell by 15 per cent in the days after Heins’s demonstration of the new software, hitting $C11.63 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. RIM, based in Ontario, was at one stage Canada’s most valuable company, its shares peaking at $C148 in June 2008.

    So Heins, who took over the reins at the flagging company only in January, has to juggle the market and analysts who want a speedy release of BlackBerry 10 on the one hand, and third-party software developers on the other. These developers will be crucial to the success of the new BlackBerry phones, and many are encouraging Heins to stick with perfecting the software before he releases it.

    RIM has been taking “a very measured and careful approach to getting the platform right before launching it,” says Alex Caccia, the president of Marmalade, which makes the software development platform used by many big mobile phone games companies, including Electronic Arts and Activision. “It’s a disaster to launch a platform before all the bits are in place, so we’re fine with the pace.”

    While analysts may be unimpressed with the progress of BlackBerry 10, Caccia says he’s impressed with its quality. “Not all platforms are the same – some have been very well put together and are super developer friendly and some are not,” he says. “Android is pretty messy, and there are far too many devices and it’s difficult to manage. The experience has been bruising. What we’re looking at here [with BB10] is one which has been very well thought through, and that’s definitely of interest to developers.”

    Gaining developers’ interest is crucial if BlackBerry 10 is to have any chance of success. Without their support, the phones will have none of the critical applications that users look for when deciding which phone to buy.

    To ensure the new operating system can hit the ground running, RIM has adopted a radical approach to getting developers on board: it has given away more than 20,000 PlayBook tablets to them. While the PlayBook, RIM’s first entry into the tablet market, has been widely written off as a failure – so much so that the company had to give it away free – it may yet prove to be a strategic masterstroke.

    The PlayBook is based upon the same underlying operating system, QNX, as BlackBerry 10, and RIM has guaranteed developers that any software they write for the PlayBook will run with few or no changes on BlackBerry 10 phones.

    Last September, the RIM executive in charge of getting developers to release software for BlackBerry 10, Alex Saunders, approached RIM’s then chief executive Mike Lazaridis to ask for 25,000 PlayBooks to give away to developers. Since then, he’s been attending software development conferences around the world and handing them out like candy.

    “I’m Johnny PlayBookseed,” he tells The Australian Financial Review.

    So far, the strategy seems to be working. Applications written for the PlayBook now number 25,000, all of which will be available from day one for the first BlackBerry 10 device.

    Antony White, a co-director of software maker Paw Print Games, says he moved some of his company’s games to the test BlackBerry 10 phone given out by RIM within hours of having received the phone. “That’s why we got involved with the PlayBook,” he says, “because we knew it would be relatively straightforward to move to BlackBerry 10.” It took him “absolutely no work whatsoever” to convert his software from the PlayBook to the phone.

    “You’ll spend three, six months, a year, whatever it is, developing your software, and if you can put it on another platform in a day, you’d be silly not to,” he says.

    Martin Herdina, the chief executive of Wikitude, a software company that develops complex augmented reality applications for mobile phones, says he had been likewise impressed by the PlayBook and BlackBerry 10. “It’s a platform we like a lot . . . performance-wise we have BlackBerry 10, Android, and [Apple’s] iOS in this order,” he says.

    But impressing software developers is only part of the problem that RIM faces. Getting ordinary consumers to consider the new BlackBerry is a bigger matter entirely. After taking over RIM in January, Heins cleared several key executives from the company, and is now on the hunt for a new chief marketing officer, who will play a vital role in selling the new phone to the world. This role, Heins says, is only “a signature away” from being filled.

    Even so, even if it released the best phone on the market, and even with perfectly executed marketing, it could take some time for BlackBerry 10 to turn things around for RIM, and time is something the company may not have.

    Caccia, also a believer in the new BlackBerry platform, isn’t optimistic that it will change RIM’s fortunes overnight. “This is going to take two years to get right,” he says. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”
    sf49ers and mrzeolite like this.
    05-07-12 07:02 PM
  2. VeGiTo's Avatar
    I think it was quite fair actually, and much better written than most of the tripe out there these days.

    Nice to see these quotes from prominent developers showing their appreciation of the QNX platform.
    05-07-12 07:16 PM
  3. trsbbs's Avatar
    Good fair read.


    Sent from my BlackBerry
    05-07-12 07:28 PM
  4. anthogag's Avatar
    I think it's a good article but it would be better if these writers actually started printing words that showed more confidence in BB10 being a success

    IMO, iOS 6 (if they're working on 6) won't be a big change for Apple just like Mountain Lion isn't too much of a stretch from Lion. So iPhone 5 will be good but a same-difference device

    BB10 will be different and exciting, that's really good, because it won't be 'too late', as many tech writers write
    morganplus8 likes this.
    05-07-12 08:41 PM
  5. mdarscott's Avatar
    RIM does have time to turn it around. They have cash in hand, good cash flows and no debt. See the article referenced in this thread: http://forums.crackberry.com/news-ru...-stock-722268/
    05-07-12 09:04 PM
  6. playbookster's Avatar
    The title could be better but the article is good.
    05-07-12 09:18 PM
  7. mrzeolite's Avatar
    Good read, very informative... Thanks!
    05-07-12 09:59 PM