During the course of a year I bet I meet hundreds of executives. Last year, I noticed a dramatic increase in the number of executives with an iPhone or other smartphone (but mostly iPhones) instead of a Blackberry. Although I initially dismissed it as a novelty, smartphones other than Blackberry have quickly become mainstream. The iPhone has surpassed Blackberry among business users. As many ponder dumping their Blackberries, it is common to see executives carry a company-issued Blackberry and an iPhone—it’s the 21st century equivalent of driving the company car during the week and the Porsche on the weekends. More surprisingly, major companies are offering their executives a choice of company smartphone. Those who switch to an iPhone swear that their divorce from Blackberry is permanent. What I once dismissed as cultish avarice for Apple products is now mainstream preference.
I have been a loyal and enthusiastic Blackberry user for years. We were inseparable, though I did have a brief dalliance with an Android a couple of years ago; but after only two weeks, I found myself missing my Blackberry. And for good reason. No device does email better than a Blackberry. The red light that signals the arrival of new emails is seriously addictive. It was impossible not to respond to it be it middle of the night, during a movie . . . well, you get the picture. Blackberry’s large keyboard and the tactile feel of the keys make typing emails easy. However, Blackberry’s simple-stupid model for everyday business has been at the expense of a work hard, play hard device that is as useful (and entertaining) outside of the office as it is for business. Face it: Blackberry is about as sexy and hip as a nerdy accountant.
Why has RIM gotten itself in this mess? Arrogance? Poor management? Lack of innovation? Quality issues? Probably a combination of these reasons and then some. Last Monday, RIM’s newly appointed CEO, Thorstein Heins (who has been the company’s COO for the last four years), held a short Q&A session with analysts. Heins stated “no drastic change is needed” adding that he considers Blackberry’s issues to be more of a marketing and messaging issue, i.e.: people do not understand how wonderful our products are (good luck with that one).
Here are five reasons why I believe Blackberry is well down the road to becoming obsolete:
1. Blackberry does not integrate as well with life out of the office as do competing smartphones. Smartphones have changed from email centric to email and application, centric and now there’s an app for almost everything if you are an iPhone or Android user. Not so much for Blackberry. I envy the quantity and quality of applications that my iPhone friends have. I feel like the kid on the couch with a cast on his leg watching his friends frolic around outside. I own an iPad, which has been a nice tease to what I am missing.
2. Blackberry does not continue to innovate. To win over customers, RIM must completely make over the BlackBerry OS, and design hardware that can compete with rival phones in processing power and innovation. Also, it has not developed the relationships with the developer community that its competitors have. In short, RIM is not making phones that people want. And we all know what happens to those who don’t innovate. Remember Wang computers? The Sony video recorder? Nope, and if Blackberry doesn’t innovate you won’t remember it either.
3. Other smartphones such as iPhones are now supported by many companies. Many organizations support (and can do so with a comparable level of security) iPhones and Android smartphones. Additionally, iPhone and Android both can synchronize with Outlook and are as easy or easier to use than a Blackberry.
4. Quality issues and service outages. For many indifferent users, the widespread Blackberry service outages coupled with the Blackberry 9900 device issues have been their “dammit it I’ve had it” breaking point. In addition, many executives see RIM’s recently announced year delay in a new line of phones and operating system as confirmation that Blackberry is not what it once was. One CEO I know is on her fourth Blackberry Bold 9900 in 90 days and close to making the final break. While the quality and service issues are not at the core of Blackberry users’ mass exodus, it certainly contributes to the lack of faith in RIM and its future.
5. Now is an easy time to switch devices. Now is an easy time for an executive to switch to an iPhone or Android. There are many applications now available to migrate data from your Blackberry. Also, I think it is safe to assume that the beta test and adoption of the iPhone into corporate America has passed and is a success. Go ahead, live a little and give it a shot.
So, Blackberry, though I have loved you and you and I were inseparable, it is time to go our separate ways. I know this will hurt but I’m leaving you for an iPhone. While I understand that the touch keyboard takes some getting used to, it was the same for me to get used to using WordPerfect rather than a typewriter. Oh, and by the way, what ever happened to WordPerfect?