What I find so interesting about the recent Blackberry discourse is the presumption that BlackBerry needs a homerun from their Z10 and Q10 models. This is a silly insinuation and largely ignores the body of evidence to the contrary and from many different angles, not just one.
Let me grind through this baseless position, by laying it out around some basic points
1. BlackBerry Needs a Homerun, because soon they will be irrelevant.
This is such a fallacy as to be humorous. Firstly, mobile phone sales are around 2 billion units per year of which nearly 50% are smartphone devices (1 billion consumers). With some countries adding around 15million totally new users every month. These are users who have no user experience and are more likely than not to choose whatever suits them in the moment.
As well young people still come along and make their first purchases and they want a smartphone and they will choose whatever suits them best, it could be an Android with What’sApp or a BB10 with BBM. Unlikely are they to invest in the premium product of an Apple out of the gate. This simple truth is most obvious in the UK where BBM is a huge driving force behind that platforms success there.
BlackBerry, like Android before it, but for different reasons can patiently grow into these markets as they develop because the company has a tremendous amount of cash, products that sell, appreciated by analysts or not and many different sources of revenue.
2. This is a duopoly and no one wants more than 2 or maybe a 3rd also ran smartphone platform.
Where is the evidence to substantiate this statement? This is just crazy to imagine that a marketing of half a billion sales (units) only has room for two providers. Imagine if that were only true, how many historic events would have never happened. Apple wouldn’t exist, IBM would be supreme, Microsoft wouldn’t be king of the hill, etc. Imagine the cost of flying if only two airlines existed? What about cell phone carriers? If only Verizon and AT&T existed? Or Rogers and Bell in Canada or Vodafone and Orange in the UK?
The irony is that even if this statement were true for a period of time, it would eventually prove to be incorrect as prices, a lack of innovation, etc would lead to an eventually shift in the market. This is just the way things are, it’s no different than Friendster, then MySpace and now Facebook. Facebook even tried with several ‘innovations’ to their platform to crush Twitter, but they couldn’t change the fundamentally different cultures of those on Facebook and how they choose to use that platform versus Twitter. Microsoft tried to go in a straight-line at Google by building Bing and it looks like the real challenge to Google will come to a fundamental shift in Search coming from Social or Mobile e.g. MS Windows Phone or Facebook Search (when it comes). Success ironically also exposes weakness and BlackBerry will have it’s chance to insert itself and have success because of this, let’s see if they manage to find the correct insertion point.
3. 70,000 applications? That’s less than 10% of the iPhone or Android.
Forgetful group these journalists are, because I remember that Android had little to no applications at launch and everyone said it would never survive because the iPhone had hundreds of thousands of apps. I’m sure people will have lots of “but’s” to add to this comment, but I’m not taking this argument further. You were wrong then and you are wrong now. People enjoy different looks and feels and different experiences and no doubt there is a huge group of users who are interested in a BlackBerry or even a Windows Phone for reasons not apparent to those great thought leaders called ‘Journalists’.
There is a second edge to this point and that is that analysts and journalists are widely stating that companies like Box.net, DropBox, Instagram, etc aren’t going to support or are going to wait and see with BlackBerry and Windows Phone. That’s a patently absurd. Dropbox has 226,005, Instagram has 3,272,201 and Box.net has 28,280 downloads of their applications on Android the most successful platform in the world today. To say that not having Dropbox is a deal breaker is idiotic and to think that Dropbox wouldn’t want to write software for a platform that will easily sell several million BBOS devices every quarter is equally absurd. This goes equally so for Instagram and Box.net. If I had a market of 80 million the only thing holding me back would be to know if it’s growing or not, so all BlackBerry needs to do is show it’s not going south and it’ll be enough for Instagram to get involved, where as the others won’t want to pass up selling another 10,000 or more subscriptions to business audience that even if they migrate away from BlackBerry in the future will already be their customers rather than someone else’s.
4. The value of different
This is my most obscure and subjective point, so I’m saying it last, but my feeling is that people will rebel from that much ‘sameness’. Can you actually imagine a world where walking down the street in a duopoly means everyone has an iPhone or Android? How boring!
I personally even experience this and I don’t want an iPhone and I only buy an Android becuase I use Google Apps. I’d love to own either a Windows Phone or BB10 and in fact will be evaluating both in April for a purchase in May. I’m excited to buy either the very fashionable Windows Phone or the dual-personality/Hub’ish BB10. I’ll happily own either of them and be the only guy with something different. Personally I wish both the ‘upstarts’ success, but deep down I hope it’s a slow recovery so that I can stay a little different for a little while. Sameness sucks!
There are lots of ways for BlackBerry to succeed and no they don’t need to have a sudden and massive success to succeed in time.
Good luck BlackBerry, you will need it, but realistically you’ll have lots of time to achieve it.