In the November 24, 2008 issue of Fortune magazine there is an article that briefly explains what Research In Motion (RIM), maker of the Blackberries, is trying to do to maintain its current dominance in the smart phone market in the US (Up to July 2008 its market share was 50% and it was the same for 2007).
Their latest, and most advanced model, Storm, went on sale this week in the US through Verizon Wireless. This model has pretty much every feature that you can imagine (GPS, Media Player, Browser, Camera and Video Recording, Voice Activated Dialing (VAD), Multi Band, etc.) but one of the strongest selling points is a “feeling” on-screen keyboard. They call it SurePress Touch Screen, which is a subtle click that lets you know the letter has been entered. In the Fortune article they also mention that a big feature, compared to the Apple iPhone, is that the Blackberry Storm has a removable battery. It is also mentioned that, immediately after the creation of a $100 million fund for iPhone applications, the Blackberry Partners Fund was launched with $150 million to spur new software development for Blackberries.
If a new kind of on-screen keyboard, a removable battery and $50 million more on venture funds is the strategy to maintain RIM market share and to cope with the iPhone and others (mostly Android-based T-Mobile G1 and unlocked Nokia E71) I honestly believe they don’t get it.
Although, from a practical point of view, a removable battery would be a nice feature for the iPhone I look at it differently and as follows: if the battery is going to last me for two or three years it is quite likely that, by then, I would have already upgraded myself to whatever new iPhone or other smart phone is available at that time.
I do not have any figures but it is my guess that many, if not most, of the hundreds of iPhone applications already available have not benefited from the $100 million venture capital fund created for that purpose. I believe it will be the same for the Blackberry one if indeed they are able to attract developers to the platform.
You will not find here a criticism for the Blackberries. I have been a user, a happy one, for many years and it has always been a great tool for me. It was the company that I work for who got me an iPhone (they decided to get rid of blackberries and moved to iPhone but it was becasue of an issue with carriers and prices rather than devices themselves).
It is certain that, up to now, the iPhone is not as efficient for me when sending email messages as any of the multiple blackberries I have had in the past. But, yes, but all the other things I am getting from the iPhone such as a nice and smooth web browsing experience, hundreds of, mostly not useful, applications that I enjoy testing, my music and pod casts, my pictures, games, etc. are much better than the, so far, unsuccessful attempts Blackberry has made. Yes, the latest blackberries have many, if not all the features, that the iPhone provides but they are not as smooth and nicely integrated.
I am not, and do not pretend, to be an expert on Marketing or Design but there is no doubt that Apple knows how to do and market nice products. They also provide them with additional factors that make them attractive. Factors such as coolness (as an expression of admiration and approval), slim design, easiness of use (as low or null level of difficulty. No training or manual needed), smooth integration with desktop software, etc.
Apple has already attracted many of the non-corporate users (made the smart phone market bigger) and now is trying hard with the corporate customers (gaining market share from RIM) by providing E-mail, address book and calendar integration with Exchange, corporate IT Management and Virtual Private Network (VPN) capabilities.
Despite I believe that Blackberry email capabilities are still superior to those of the iPhone the rest are not. Software applications and media handling (music, movies and pictures) are far better on the iPhone than on Blackberries. My guess is that iPhone market share will continue to grow. Let’s revisit in a year to find out where things stand.