Monday, July 25, 2011

How Android can save Blackberry

It has come to the point that even Blackberry enthusiasts can't deny the trouble that RIM is in. Originally losing ground to the iPhone, the loss of market share has increased with the Android onslaught. The flop of the PlayBook, a quarter filled with poor results, and now the cutting of 2,000 jobs makes the future of Blackberry look even more grim.

Take a look at a Blackberry today and it's almost exactly the same as it was three years ago. In that time they've released Blackberry OS 5.0, and 6.0 with 7.0 on the way. But the user interface hasn't changed that much and Blackberry App World feels sparce compared to the Apple Store and Android Market.

There's such a mixed bag of news coming out of Waterloo, I won't make any predictions about the future of RIM. There are signs pointing to the possibility of change but there are also omens of a lingering head-in-sand mentality. RIM has plenty of cash to keep them on life-support for a while but they do need to turn things around fast before it turns into an unstoppable avalanche.

Recently an annonymous high-level RIM employee sent an open letter to the founders, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. In it he/ she addresses the problem causing the pain at RIM, much attributed to a lack of concern for the end-user experience. The anonymous writer cites plenty of other issues that need to fixed, such as creating a brand people can relate to and not allowing carriers and lawyers to make all the decisions.

While the official response to the letter was vague at best, there are other things coming out of RIM that give me hope for their future. The PlayBook didn't have a fighting since RIM foolishly released it without native email support but the QNX PlayBook OS shows promise. It's in the new OS's developer centric benfits that points towards a new shift in strategies at RIM.

There are two key points that suggest that Blackberry will someday be more appealing to developers. The first made a big splash when originally announced, the PlayBook will support Android application compatibility. The other, which was a little more obscure, is a soon to be released native development kit that allows developers to take advantage of C and C++ to write performance-sensitive parts of the QNX applications.

Enticing developers to be excited about their platform is a huge step in the right direction. If they are then willing to improve upon the user experience then Blackberry has a shot of being market competitor again.

But is this too little, too late? That's where Android steps in. The "app player" gives thrid-part Android apps the ability to run on the QNX OS. If that system can be put in place on the new touch-screen capable phones coming from Blackberry then the instant increase in apps would make consumers rethink the Blackberry platform.

Being able to run Android apps on the BB OS isn't going to guarantee a successful future for RIM but what it would do is prevent the snowball effect that's threatening RIM. There a dangerously dismissive attitude towards Blackberry these days. They need to quickly show that they're making the right decisions for the future.

The move to quickly add to it's app base would be similar to the strategy Google employed with Android in the early days. Google's focus was to make the platform open and foster a community of developers. Blackberry needs to do the same to keep from running out of steam for good, instantly benefitting from making more apps available via Android.

These days I don't know many people opting for Blackberry. I still have a nostalgic love for the platform therefore I hope it makes a comeback. If Android apps were made available on the handheld I would be intrigued enough to give it a try.

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