JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Crunch time for once-dominant BlackBerry

A leaked photo of what's said to be the BlackBerry Z10, in black and white.

A leaked photo of what's said to be the BlackBerry Z10, in black and white.

NEW YORK: The launch of BlackBerry 10 on Wednesday in the US is seen as the last roll of the dice for the ailing Research In Motion and its attempts to revive the once-beloved “CrackBerry”.

BlackBerry was the dominant player in smartphones just a few years ago, but millions have since deserted the platform in favour of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android.

Where once IT managers selected staff mobile devices and many workers kept a work and a personal phone, today employees expect to bring their own personal devices to work and have them connected to the corporate network. When they are given a choice of phone by their employer, BlackBerry is far from the top of their wish list.

A leaked photo of what's said to be the BlackBerry Z10, in black and white.

A leaked photo of what's said to be the BlackBerry Z10, in black and white.

Qantas, IBM, Woolworths and Dell are just some of the Australian organisations that have reportedly dumped BlackBerry recently. Australian public servants have also been gradually moving towards Apple, and this trend is mirrored by government workers worldwide including the US Department of Defence and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Qantas announced in July last year that it would save millions of dollars each year by retiring its 1300 BlackBerry models and switching to iPhones, as well as a worker “bring your own device” policy.

A Qantas spokesman said the move was made “in response to feedback suggesting a strong preference for the Apple device”. Since the replacement program was carried out in September and November last year, “98 per cent of employees said they were happy with the process and outcome”.

Analyst firm Gartner reported that BlackBerry captured just 5.3 per cent global smartphone market share in the third quarter of 2012, down from 11 per cent a year earlier. In that period Android has climbed from 52.5 to 72.4 per cent.

RIM hasn't had a significant new product in more than a year and its last major device, the PlayBook tablet in 2011, tanked. BB10 has been beset by several frustrating delays.

“This first quarter, January to March, really is make or break for RIM because if the consumers don't like BB10 then enterprises won't commit, and this means that the bankers will really move in on RIM,” said IBRS analyst James Turner, who recently filed a research note on BlackBerry.

Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, believes BB10 will provide only a temporary boost in performance "but no salvation" for RIM.

"RIM continues to face the twin demons of consumer-driven buying power and a chronic inability to appeal to mature market consumers," Dawson said. "There is nothing in what we’ve seen so far of BB10 that suggests it will conquer the second of these demons, and the first is utterly out of RIM’s control.

The core BlackBerry advantages - great keyboards, real-time email/messaging and security - have become less pronounced as competitors have caught up. Where BlackBerry Messenger once stood out, the functionality has been replicated by dozens of apps such as WhatsApp, while real-time email and the ability to hook up with corporate networks is now a standard feature.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry has fallen far behind in such areas as apps, fast internal hardware required for multimedia, web browsing experience and camera quality. This has been a deal-breaker for many consumers who want one device for both work and play.

At its launch event in New York on Wednesday, RIM is expected to unveil at least two devices running its new, completely revamped BlackBerry 10 operating system. One will reportedly be a 4.2-inch full touch-screen device, while the other will have RIM's trademark hardware keyboard.

The company has been leaking like a sieve ahead of the launch, with several documents, pictures and internal training manuals appearing on the web.

RIM has also held dozens of developer events around the world, hoping to flesh out its app store. It has guaranteed certain pre-approved apps will generate $US10,000 ($A9600) in revenue in the first year or the company will make up the difference.

Several RIM executives appeared in a music video last year designed to butter up app developers, which was set to REO Speedwagon's Keep On Loving You. It was widely ridiculed but it may just work, with the company promising at least 70,000 apps available at launch.

RIM is gearing up for a major marketing blitz for BB10, including a reported $US3.8 million US Super Bowl ad.

Turner said RIM was taking a page out of the Apple playbook and going to “extremes with the hype” ahead of the launch, which he said “smacks of desperation”.

He said ultimately consumers need to love BlackBerry 10 or it will fall flat in the business world - a huge shift from RIM's previous focus on the enterprise.

Turner has spoken to several Australian organisations about their switchover from BlackBerry. While refusing to name names, he gave several examples of what he found:

  • A financial services organisation began giving employees the option of either an iPhone or a BlackBerry a year ago and iPhones now account for 40 per cent of the fleet.
  • An IT executive from another organisation said staff were being moved to iPhone or Android as their phones came up for renewal and now only 20 per cent - those on two-year contacts - remained on BlackBerry.
  • Another executive said that after offering both BlackBerry and iPhones to staff, the iPhone now accounted for 90 per cent of the fleet.

In what feels like the blink of an eye, smartphones have become a two-horse race.

While Samsung dominates mobile phones globally - shipping one in four mobiles or 396.5 million handsets last year, according to Strategy Analytics - Apple still has a strong hold on Australians.

Apple pulled in a record $5.99 billion revenue in Australia in the year to September 2012, up 22.9 per cent on the previous year, according to results filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Not everyone is deserting BlackBerry, though.

NAB told Fairfax Media that the BlackBerry “fits our purpose” by offering “a combination of being able to make calls and emails backed by good security”. Some staff were using them alongside devices such as the iPad.

ANZ told Fairfax the BlackBerry remained its “corporate standard, but we are continuing to track and assess the market”.

RIM's board ousted co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie last year amid the BlackBerry freefall and several horror quarters, such as one that generated a whopping $US643 million loss.

The CrackBerry has now become an expensive habit for RIM, as consumers debate whether to give it up for good.

Asher Moses takes a first look at the new BlackBerry smartphones from Thursday

Asher Moses travelled to New York as a guest of RIM.

27 comments

  • I personally cannot wait for the new BlackBerry 10. For me productivity is the reason I continue to use my BlackBerry Bold. The ability to multi task, punch out a quick email and access notifications is something I cannot do with as much precision and speed on an Android or iPhone. I think if people really educated themselves about the amazing features of the new BlackBerry10 and how much it has evolved they would give it a real go. Unfortunately they did fall behind in terms of apps, and continued to build on an old OS architecture but the new OS will change this. This OS looks like a winner with the BlackBerry hub and flow andso many feature intrinsic in the architecture without relying on going into and out of apps.I think it makes the way we use iPhones look antiquated now in comparison which essentially is just a big rectangular app holder where your gesture are just continually going into and out of apps. I wish RIM well. They were as we quickly forget the pioneers of smart phones and deserve a second chance. Let's hope their legacy of long lasting batteries and durability continues in their next generation of phones.

    Commenter
    James
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    January 29, 2013, 3:21PM
    • I hate my blackberry bold.

      The internet connection compared to apples is a joke. Its like comparing dial up with adsl+2. This is the sole reason why i may leave blackberry after 4 years.

      Commenter
      JordanS88
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 4:35PM
    • Not as much precision and speed on Android and iOS? You must be time travelling then when punching out quick emails and getting notifications.

      Commenter
      Geraint
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 30, 2013, 10:03AM
    • BB10 claims it will have the fastest browser on the market slaughtering iPhone 5 on HTML5 tests.

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 30, 2013, 11:28AM
    • Oh, a manufacturer claiming they will have fastest? Who'da thunk it... So you do your BB email and notifications via browser?

      Commenter
      Geraint
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      January 30, 2013, 11:54AM
    • It has been well documented and tested over the internet/youtube by many developers. Have a look. Notifications/email. Pushed through instantly over the compressed and encrypted RIM infrastructure without the battery drain that plagued my old iPhone when push is turned on.

      Commenter
      James
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 30, 2013, 12:21PM
  • Yeah,,,,, nah.

    Commenter
    HighlyDubious
    Date and time
    January 29, 2013, 3:24PM
    • I am really excited for the launch of BlackBerry 10 and the new devices.

      I switched from iPhone to BlackBerry after the iPhone 3 debacle of 2010ish and have never looked back. I am onto my second BlackBerry Bold (9900) and love what it has to offer, including far more reliable coverage than my iPhone friends. I have converted friends from Samsungs and they prefer the BlackBerry too.

      Look forward to the new devices and can't wait to get a new BB!

      Commenter
      hanne_liz
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 3:28PM
      • BB10 infrastructure will be the big game for BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) administrators and CIO's on whether or not to move forward or away. We have Traveler,Good and Airwatch running, with BES a poor fourth. Our user base has already made its decision moving to iPhone,iPad,Android. I still run a BB and talk it up, but the comments I get back, I do feel that the BB is not that popular in the corporation. I wish RIM all the best and hope that BB10 is a success, its still a dam good platform.

        Commenter
        Humble_Opinion
        Date and time
        January 29, 2013, 3:41PM
        • I don't hold much hope for it as corporate IT has made employees toys (i.e. iPhone, BYOD) work in the enterprise where BB once had its turf. It needs wow factor to get peoples lust happening and from what details have been released, it lacks in that.

          The work/personal segregation appears to be a good thing but ideally it would have dual SIM capability so I can have my work simcard and my own simcard in the one phone (I don't want to carry two phones!). I'd like to run either android or iphone apps (both would be a bonus but I don't think would ever happen) and I'd like to have a preinstalled load of the most common/popular android/iphone apps (possibly recompiled to BB10) so I can see it'll easily replace my android/iphone without too much effort. I'd like real multi tasking. I'd also like a docking station in-the-box so it can plug into my work computer USB, sync (if required) and charge itself. As the web browser is so good it's going to take a lot to have people realize that they don't need to install apps - you can run them "from the cloud" (lol) and I'd like to have website URL's represented like an app, with a shortcut on the screen and an entry in my apps list (denoted as a shortcut).

          My wife has had a few BB's over the years and I've not been a huge fan (I have a work laptop so use that for email). It's just half baked. I got given a playbook recently which has been fairly underwhelming. I'd switch from android to BB if it was decent and didn't drive me up the wall (which Android sometimes does - but nowhere near as much as Blackberry!)

          Commenter
          RB
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          January 29, 2013, 3:50PM

          More comments

          Comments are now closed
          Featured advertisers