What’s Going to Happen to RIM and the BlackBerry Brand?

With Research in Motion falling dramatically in influence in the US, and even seeing signs of slowing in the UK, one of its crucial markets, it begs the questions of what the Canada based company will do next.

RIM certainly have a large number of assets, and these are things that could prove important in its future. It has been speculated by many that Microsoft may attempt to buy the large smartphone manufacturer, for they have a significant amount of money to spend, but I am not sure they would do this. I do not think Microsoft look to purchase competitors in order to gain marketshare, certainly not ones losing significance  as fast as RIM are. However, I think it’s certainly plausible that RIM moves OS from BlackBerry 10 (whose release was set back a number of months to early 2013, further cause for concern for its future) to Windows Phone 8, when it comes out in Autumn. A company as large as RIM must have checked out all its competition, and it’s the case with most Windows Phone users that they don’t want to leave the platform. Even Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has stated he thinks the Nokia Lumia 900 and Windows Phone 7 OS are beautiful – he’s not wrong. I think RIM are well aware of the potential of Windows Phone, certainly considering Windows 8’s pending release, and so may make the risky move to the platform. This would very much put RIM in the position Nokia is in, fighting for its life and heavily dependant on Microsoft. Having said that, with the added backing of another huge brand name, Windows Phone could benefit greatly and perhaps it would mean BlackBerry Messenger would become standard for Windows Phones as RIM and Microsoft become closer integrated. I certainly think the help of RIM would have a large effect, even though its marketshare is diminishing. I think the diminishing marketshare is more to do with the outdated OS than the hardware or company. RIM made an ambitious move into the tablet market with the BlackBerry Playbook, and I must admit, whenever I’ve played about with the device, I’ve been very impressed. But it’s just not caught on in the market. Windows 8 could change all that, and forming a partnership with Microsoft would be the first step towards this. Furthermore, Microsoft wish to establish a powerful business presence with Windows Phone, and BlackBerrys are traditionally the business phone of choice, so I really see many potential gains from this move. I do not personally like BlackBerry phones, due to the clunky interface and the outdated trackerball and keyboard. I would expect most WP8 BlackBerry phones to have no physical keyboard. Although this makes the phones less distinguishable, I think it’s the best tactic and that’s the way the world is moving – touchscreen, touchscreen, touchscreen. It would certainly be an interesting move on RIM’s part, but I honestly think it may pay off for both companies in their attempts to at least snatch some marketshare back from the abusing clutches of Apple and Google.

There is a case for RIM to switch to Android as well, and this would be cheaper for the company (as it is open source) and would allow more customisability and product differentiation, although I would be concerned that the Android space is already so heavily dominated by the titans that are Samsung and HTC. Windows Phone is still in relatively early development, and so any entrant will be able to have its unique effect. I do think Android would provide instant sales for BlackBerry, but Windows Phone would be a longer term effort. I think firms should always think long-term, especially if they’re in such a rapidly changing market as smartphones – that’s why I am of the opinion that they need to move away from their current BlackBerry OS, because consumer tastes have changed and they need to keep up with them or they’ll be out of contention completely.

Oli

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New Windows Phones

It’s about time Microsoft push for a few more phones for its Windows Phone platform. We see endless numbers of models being released by all varieties of OEMs running Android, and the only time a new WP7 phone is released, it’s so rare. I would have thought all the incessant advertising of the Lumia 800 (which I think is fantastic, by the way) in the UK would get WP7 noticed a bit more, but it hasn’t had much of an effect yet. It seems clear to me, however, that only time will tell before people actually start to try WP. And when they do, they’ll be sucked into its incredible interface and ease of use, as well as its ever increasing marketplace, Xbox Live games, Microsoft Office, SkyDrive functions, and overall fantastic user experience. I cannot sing its praises enough. The Nokia Lumia 900 looks an absolute beast.

Also, WP7’s share in Germany has reached 6%, which is very impressive for a relatively new OS trying to crack a huge duopoly in one of the markets that doesn’t usually favour Microsoft products. However, in the UK the marketshare remains about 1% or so, while in the US it’s reaching 2%. Not groundbreaking my any means, no, but it’s a start. There’s certainly more to come, especially when Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 come about.

So I’d like to see a few more additions to the current roster of Windows Phones. The HTC Titan II NEEDS to come to the UK. As does the Lumia 900, it should arrive in about a week. The Samsung Focus 2 is also supposed to be good. LG are not committing to WP7 for the forseeable future, which isn’t the greatest shame as their company’s going down anyway. Samsung and HTC are by far the most powerful OEMs to have on your side, apart from, of course, Nokia.

Furthermore, I want to see retailers actually push sales of Windows Phones. Too many of them are resistant to talking about them when I ask. They have none of it, they’re too busy explaining why the HTC One X is what I want. I’ve tried it, and it’s good, but it’s no Windows Phone. The reason they don’t push Windows Phone is that even they haven’t tried it. Especially in Phones4u, apparently the biggest UK seller of Windows Phones, they need to educate their staff on the full range of OS, because otherwise they’re sure to have pre-determined opinions. People fear change, when really, change is what keeps things interesting.