New Apps Underscore Blackberry’s Problems

Waterloo, Ontario based Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry line of smartphones has had its share of problems lately. Most of which have been coming from Apple’s iPhone and Google Android OS powered devices. (Rest in peace Windows Mobile?) The announcement of BBH Solutions’ new app underscores RIM’s problems.  The ‘app’ itself is not necessarily an app though. It is a full IT solution that allows business users to call and receive calls through their office number, using their BlackBerrys. Called BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS), and allowing users access to their office phone voice mailbox and present a single number on their business cards, the new solution promises a lot. The only problem? I have been doing this for months with Google Voice. Now that is RIM’s problem.

RIM started way back in the late 1980s working on two-way paging systems. Then they graduated to email—practically took over mobile email if I might add—and then created the smartphone as we know it. The only problem was that Apple “invented” the touch-screen smartphone and then Google “invented” the concept of being a smartphone OS company. RIM has been left holding the bag as the owner of one of the strongest smartphone brand names, but with clunky, un-cool phones (thanks to Apple), and with 3rd party enterprise solutions to problems that free online services offer (thanks to Google).

While I am sure that BlackBerry MVS offers stronger corporate features and security than Google Voice, RIM has missed the mark here and BBH Solution’s new app holds the target up for all of us to see.  RIM has been stuck in the uncomfortable position of being seen as both a hardware and software provider. Their BlackBerry line of phones, while highly functional, is not sexy and are instead seen as a little outdated. Their OS and app support, while also functional, is clunky and offers poor web surfing. Apple differentiated by rebranding itself as a company that produces the killer touch-screen iPhone and Google differentiated by creating a division that makes remarkable operating system software and solutions for both consumer and corporate problems regardless of the smartphone platform.

The BlackBerry became such a strong brand during the 2000s because young people wanted smartphones and RIM made the only smartphone worth having. Unfortunately, it was oriented to business users. Now we have choices, and the BlackBerry finally has true competition. The young business people who have graduated college in the past few years know all about the iPhone and the BlackBerry’s other competitors and have begun to whisper their preference into their IT department’s ears. Unless RIM figures out where it wants to fit into the market, it will continue to flounder. Because now you can get your Gmail on a $50 prepay phone.

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