Should the BlackBerry Go Social?

By Mark Evans - Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 9:39 am  

In many respects, this is going to be an important week for Research in Motion and the BlackBerry. Facing increased competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, the BlackBerry is being viewed as vulnerable and in jeopardy of losing its status as one of the world’s leading smartphones.

While the BlackBerry has maintained its strength in the corporate marketplace that values its rock-solid email and voice service, the BlackBerry’s consumer foothold is, at best, modest despite efforts to pimp its look and features.

The reality is the iPhone is sexy; the BlackBerry is your father’s smartphone.

This week, RIM is expected to unveil its new OS 6.0, which could include a Web browser that actually works. There’s also speculation RIM could unveil plans for a tablet computer to compete against the iPad.

In the midst of BlackBerry’s challenges, an interesting trend is how the device has gained a foothold with younger consumers. While they are not totally thrilled with the BlackBerry brand given its corporate roots, they like using it because the QWERTY keyboard makes it easy to use text-messaging and social media services such as Facebook and Twitter. If you take a look at younger consumers, the BlackBerry seems to be alive and well.

Given this foothold, maybe a logical strategic direction for RIM is pushing to become the social media smartphone. Rather than trying to out-Apple Apple, RIM should tightly integrate Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc. so they become a seamless part of the BlackBerry experience.

If RIM makes social media on the BlackBerry so user-friendly and intuitive, it might be able to capture more of the youth market to counter the iPhone’s appeal to the geeks and cool kids.

At the same time, RIM should embrace an Open API system, and encourage developers to create applications to make the BlackBerry even more social.

There’s no doubt this would be a bold step in a new direction for RIM but if can become the “social smartphone”, it would be a terrific way to complement its strength in the corporate market.

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3 Responses to “Should the BlackBerry Go Social?”

  1. Fred says:

    I recently gave my HTC Touch Diamond II away because I was sick of the clumsy OS and touchscreen. I bought a bold 9700 and I can relate to the QWERTY keyboard point that you bring up. It’s great and really helps with quick and easy texting and social site updates.

    I agree that RIM shouldn’t out-Apple Apple but rather go their own way when it comes to seamlessly integrating social media apps. The bold 9700 is a solid phone, if RIM manages to integrate the stuff that’s hot right now, social media, then they (might) gain more status.

  2. Bretton MacLean says:

    Tighter integration with social networks would be a nice plus (and they’re already doing it with Twitter for BB), but that won’t be enough on its own to overtake Apple in the consumer market. Apple is kicking ass for lots of reasons: they have the best looking & easiest to use interface, their app store is chock-full of fantastic apps, their hardware is rock-solid & harmonized across multiple generations, and they’re basically the only company actually innovating in the mobile space (while everyone else just tries to play catch-up).

    I agree that BB shouldn’t be trying to out-Apple Apple, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take a few cues from their success. Personally I’d love to see BB introduce some entirely-new killer feature, like OS-level voice recognition or something. How do they plan on building a better tablet – by adding a giant slide-out keyboard?

    I’d hate to see BB lose even more of a foothold in the mobile space because they’re spreading themselves thin trying to make a tablet simply because Apple has one. I’m an Apple guy (and I develop a Twitter app for the iPhone), but better competition from BB & Android would ensure they don’t get too complacent.

  3. karim kanji says:

    Excellent thoughts and insight here. It is true when you say that lots of kids are still using the BB while the geeks use the iPhone.

    I am curious to see if this new OS and Torch is the answer RIM is looking for.

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