The BlackBerry 10 (BB 10) phones that were introduced this week feature a spiffy operating system and lots of applications for a new OS. But are the phones enough to keep enterprises from defecting?
The Company Formerly Known as Research In Motion demonstrated its two new handsets: the Z10 with an all-touch screen and the Q10 with a touch screen and a physical keyboard. The company also announced it had changed its name to BlackBerry. So when I refer to BlackBerry, it's the company.
The Z10 could be considered BlackBerry's flagship. It features a 4.2-inch display with a 1,280x768 resolution, a 1.5 GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot, an eight-megapixel back camera, a two-megapixel front camera, 1,080p video recording, NFC, and a user-replaceable battery.
The Q10 has similar specifications, but the screen is 3.1 inches and has a 720x720 resolution.
The Z10 is expected to be available at US cellular operators in March and cost $200 with a two-year contract. The Q10 will ship in April. The reviews of the Z10 have been good, though not spectacular. It has no physical buttons on the front, because BB 10 is based on numerous swiping gestures. At first glance, it's not entirely intuitive, but tutorials will be included with the phone and are available on the web.
The new OS has definite advantages for enterprises. The browser has been redesigned and is possibly the most HTML5-compliant browser on the market, which will be especially useful for corporate web apps.
It has the same great push email integrated into a new BlackBerry Hub, which can include different email and social networking accounts. That isn't a unique concept, but it can be convenient for business users who need to track multiple accounts quickly.
Also convenient is the BlackBerry Remember application, which can store documents, photos, videos, and voice notes in folders. This application is integrated with Evernote, the note-saving program many employees love. One of the most interesting features is the new video chat app that lets one user share the phone's screen with a second user, so they can view the same documents, photos, and videos.
As expected, the phones include all the privacy, security, and device management software that IT departments know and love, including BlackBerry Balance. This very useful program sandboxes personal and business apps on two different screens, so corporate email and Twitter accounts are kept separate from personal accounts. Also, data can't be transferred between business and personal apps. IT departments can configure and wipe business apps remotely.
BlackBerry Balance requires the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, so consumers without corporate accounts won't even see Balance on their phones. However, Balance is definitely designed for the millions of consumers-as-employees who bring their own iPhones and Android phones to work. Balance was developed in part to keep employees from deserting BlackBerry.
As a personal phone, the Z10 has promise. It includes several new programs, including Story Maker for creating videos from video clips, photos, and music, along with new camera software for picking the best photo from several shots. BlackBerry's revitalized software developer program has done a great job getting 70,000 apps for the new OS, and more are on the way.
As a result of BB 10, enterprises that have standardized on BlackBerry's phones will have an easier time persuading employees to try the more consumer-oriented handsets, rather than demanding their own phones. Also, lovers of the company's physical keyboards might love the Q10, though the screen is too small for a consumer phone.
However, the promise of BB 10 has yet to be fulfilled. Many BB 10 apps are ports from Android apps and aren't as good as either the original Android apps or similar iPhone apps.
In addition, BlackBerry doesn't offer the ecosystems of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. The company doesn't have a desktop/laptop operating system like OS X, Windows 8, or even Chrome OS that integrates devices through Apple's iCloud, Microsoft's SkyDrive, and Google Drive, respectively. Consumers and enterprises are increasingly relying on these capabilities.
Except for users who must have BlackBerry's email or the best physical keyboard, so far nothing about BB 10 -- the OS, the phone hardware, or the applications -- will make most employees with iPhones and Android phones scream, "I must have it!" BB 10 is good, but it doesn't seem significantly better than the other operating systems.
A lot of people are upset by BlackBerry outages, and the company has promised it would do a better job over the years. Still, all cellular operators have outages sometimes. Verizon Wireless has experienced several LTE outages.
I suspect that most people aren't concerned too much about the outages but about other aspects -- the quality of the BlackBerr 10 operating system, the availability of the applications and the quality of the applications.
Blackberry missed the boat I think anyway. The outages they have had recently are killing them. I dont see any of these phones taking off. They may be better than what they had, they might be better than droids, but they have burned alot of bridges with there service outages. What good is a phone if the service is terrible?
For some organizations, security is paramount. Financial institutions, corporations with highly confidential research and government agencies must have the best security, and that's what BlackBerry offers. These institutions might love being able to give the new BlackBerry 10 handset to employees because it not only has excellent security and can run corporate applications (that need to be rewritten for BB 10, though), but also can run advanced consumer applications.
Also, cellular operators would like a third viable platform after Android and iOS to increase the competition and be able to offer a variety of handsets. So BlackBerry and Microsoft will be fighting for No. 3. So far, Windows Phone 8 hasn't captured much of the market, so BlackBerry still has a chance.
Yes, it's late in the game, but it's not over for BlackBerry.
I know many liked BlackBerry very well and it was really hard to switch to something else. However, isn't this late? Many CEO already gave up on BlackBerry and they know use iPhone and iPad. You can not really sustain existence in the market just because you have higher security measures.
When I began covering mobile communications in the late 1970s, wireless data was almost non-existent and cellular data trying to get 300 bps modems to work -- monkeys staring at black obelisks. Then for many years, only large corporations could afford to develop proprietary networks, hardware and software. Later, two important public mobile packet data networks launched -- RAM Mobile Data and ARDIS -- which were used by a fair number of businesses, and which started Research In Motion's/BlackBerry's rise to power and its "crackberry" fame.
But when consumers have been buying more advanced technology they began resent using more primitive and less useful technology at the office. Therein lies the problem with BlackBerry, of course -- consumers (as employees) buying superior iPhones and Android phones, and to a lesser extent, superior Windows Phone 8 handsets.
Also, home users are becoming wedded to the operating system ecosystem which, as I noted, BlackBerry doesn't have (desktop OS, significant cloud services or tablet to speak of). These ecosystems can cause security problems for enterprises, however.
After several years of the BlackBerry operating system not being competitive, especially for consumers, finally it seems that in many ways BlackBerry 10 has caught up to iOS and Android, and perhaps surpassed it in some instances. But it still has rough edges and lacks some major applications.
Windows had loyalists in the 1990s. Sometime during the 2000s, that went away.
It's part of the consumerization trend. In the 90s, people had better technology at work than they did at home, and that included Windows.
Now, that's the reverse, and people prefer the technology they use at home.
People bought Windows machines at home because they were happy with the Windows machines they had at work, and they also needed the home machines to be compatible with their work systems.
Somebody -- I think it might have even been a Microsoft exec -- said it this way: We've gone from "I buy Windows at home because I need my home computer to be compatible with my work computer" to "They make us use Windows at work."
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