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 I think the diminishing marketshare is more to do with the outdated OS than the hardware or company.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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Decisions, Decisions… Laptop, Tablet, Phone?

I am in a bit of a tricky situation at the moment. Unsure of where (of if) I will be going to university next year, I need to think ahead in terms of electronic devices as well as accommodation (which was not yet been organised). My current laptop is 4 years old and in a bad state of disrepair (although currently running better with Windows 8 Release Preview). If I get into my firm university choice, UCL, I will be staying at home and so would have a powerful desktop available there and need something more portable that I could take every day on the tube, preferably without huge fear of having is stolen, or at least if it was it wouldn’t cost too much to replace. If I get into my insurance choice, Southampton, which is looking more likely, I will need a more powerful laptop to replace the desktop, and so have been looking into laptops with i5 processors, 6gb of RAM and about 750gb of HDD (despite already having a terrabyte portable hard drive…) running Windows 7 with the expectation of receiving a Windows 8 upgrade for £15. This would frustratingly occur just when I’d be settling in at the uni though (in October), and so I’d have to start again from scratch. Anyway, I think this sort of PC is as powerful as I would need, as I do not have enough money to afford a game playing PC. If you disagree, you’re welcome to leave a comment below. But wait, I badly want to own a Windows 8 tablet and I want a Windows Phone 8 (mid-range) phone when they come out. Do I have enough cash to buy all three, and are they different enough to warrant the purchase of all three? I must admit, I don’t think I should be getting two Windows 8 devices, but I really really want a tablet, so would I have to give that a miss if I go to Southampton? I hope not. I had hoped that a tablet like Microsoft’s Surface would get rid of this fear, because it’s got the attachable cover/keyboard, but it lacks a few things I use a lot, including multiple USB ports (it only has one) and a DVD/CD drive. It looks to be the best tablet I’ve ever seen, but not quite a laptop just yet, so I don’t think it will do. Perhaps I could keep my old laptop for those things and use a Surface for everything else? That’s a possibility, but the Surface won’t be available in time for the start of the course, so I’m not sure it’s going to work.

Of course, many questions still remain about the specifics of the Surface and indeed other Windows 8 tablets, but the basics have been lain out on the table, and I don’t think it’s enough.

There is also a third possibility, that I don’t go to university at all. In that case, I would seek a job up in London and possibly carry a tablet around with me, similar to if I went to UCL I suppose.

What do you think? Should I wait until I know where I will be going, and then, what is it worth me getting? I have ruled Android tablets out of the equation after owning one in the past and seeing they really aren’t worth the trouble.

Oli

Why I Can’t Stand 21st Century Apple

Apple has recently become the world’s most valuable company, and it is hard for me to remember a time in my life where it didn’t dominate in one market or another. I have never been a fan of their products, usually favouring Microsoft and occasionally Sony/Google instead of the products they attempt to force down out throats, so I’ve decided to write a little piece about just what annoys me about the company, ranked in order.

1. The iPod era. Ever since the first iPod was released in 2001, the world went mad for them. It seemed that everyone had to have one, and if you didn’t have one, then you were part of some weird group of people striving to be different. Well, no, I just want to make my own mind up rather than follow the overexcitable crowd, thank you very much. It fast came to a point when the term ‘MP3 player’ became redundant. I was asked, for instance, what music I had on my iPod – even when I actually owned a Sony Walkman that served me very well. It always used to annoy me, how everyone assumed that I couldn’t make an informed decision for myself, that I relied on friends and acquaintances to make them for me, and what is even more irritating is when people (including close relatives), who know full well that I don’t have an iPod, enquire as to the whereabouts of my iPod.

2. The Mac. I know countless number of people who adore the appearance of Macs, but none of them can explain what they’re actually good for, aside from looking pretty. Sure, they burn a nice hole in your pocket as well, but Apple seem to push their range of computers to the richest of people because they know they will pay for what they assume to be the best, even if it isn’t. And here’s another point, since when has a Mac not been a PC? A PC is a Personal Computer, and I am certain that a Mac fulfils that description, yet, for some unknown reason, much like the iPod/MP3 player controversy, we now either say ‘I have a PC’ or ‘I have a Mac’. It’s like Apple want to seem different at all costs, and the worrying thing is it’s working, so many people love Macs, and I can’t see why.

3. Price. Apple seem to be under the impression that they can charge their customers whatever price they like for their goods, and it’s true, up to now they have been able to. I hope that soon enough, people will begin to tire of the same old iPhone still being priced at £500 ($800) and start shifting their attention to other, more affordable but just as useful devices. Unfortunately, I do not really see this happening because I find there is a snobbishness associated with many Apple product owners, where they feel because they own the most expensive product on the market, they will get it out and flash it to their friends, and look down on all other devices because they aren’t made by Apple. The brand loyalty that Apple have managed to attain is astounding, given they only really grew into a huge multinational corporation at the turn of the millennium, thanks to the iPod (see 1.), but it is true that this is partly due to a lack of realistic competition in the MP3 player industry, and of course the iPod copies available are all just reaffirming the dominance that Apple have, despite its extortionate prices.

4. Repetitiveness. Every time Apple release a new product these days, no matter what it is, it seems, it just appears to be a slightly adapted version of a current product. The iPhone, for example, was just the popular iPod Touch made to have phone and 3g capabilities. The iPad, similarly, was extensively just a large screened iPod Touch. There seems to me to be very little ingenuity for a company that is praised so much for just that. The most concerning thought is that people still aren’t getting bored of the same old interface, the same way owners are required to use their slow and frustrating iTunes service, and the way they still charge an absolute fortune to purchase their goods.

5. The ‘i’ Tag. The use of the letter ‘i’ before a generic term seems to have caught on and it was not long before there were so many companies producing replicated efforts, recently including Android tablets such as the ‘ePad’ etc etc. My issue with this tag is that I do not have one. Why am I not part of this club then? Should I go out and buy one too? After all it’s an iPod, so it is presumably designed for me. While this is clearly good marketing from Apple’s perspective, it is just another way that they’ve got there first ahead of their competition and holding or increasing their market control with every new product released, and every TV show knock off, that uses the same name format.

So, do you agree? Drop me a comment below if you have any thing to say, or perhaps even something to add to the list!

Oli

Is Google+ a Failure?

Google has been pushing its Google+ service to everyone as much as physically possible lately, but it seems, just as Microsoft is struggling to obtain a respectable smartphone marketshare, it is nearly impossible to penetrate the social networking duopoly that is Facebook and Twitter.

Google have begun putting Google+ results in its search engine, though, and this, subliminally, will be advertising its service to searchers (which, again, is massively dominated by Google), and I’m sure we can all expect a big push on its Android phones in the near future. But will they push the service on iOS, WP7 or BlackBerry? I can certainly understand why not, but they will need to balance the pros and cons of this. They want Google+ to expand as much as possible, but if it is capable of doing that a lot without the help of smartphones, they would want to keep it exclusive to Android to give users a strong reason to choose it over its competitors. Indeed, Google have offered reduced quality apps on the Windows Phone 7 marketplace, presumably because it views it as potential competition, and wants to limit that. They even forced a 3rd part YouTube app to remove its services (or change its name – YouTube Pro) from the marketplace, so it is clear Google are putting in a strong effort to hold Windows Phone back.

But the fact of the matter is that none of the actual people in my ‘circles’ have posted a status in months. Yes, I get the occasional e-mag, news website or sports club posting photos and articles, but it’s not the same as real people. Until Google can get actual people to start using Google+ as their primary social network, I can’t see how limiting Google+’s use on competing smartphone OSs is going to help them a great deal.

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.