Not so long ago, the ‘who’s who’ in the corporate world owned a BlackBerry smartphone. The black exterior looked executive, the QWERTY keypad was innovative, and the trackball was exclusive. With time however, the hardware has become of little consequence to users as most smartphones today place emphasis on software.
Up until mid 2011, BlackBerry continued to have a say in the market place until Android caught up with the darling gadget of the corporate world sending BlackBerry’s interest among consumers to a dive.
Studies show the interest in Android is three times that in the Blackberry, even as interest in the BlackBerry is at a 36-month high, since 2009.
According to technology analyst Boniface Mwambia of One Click Business, the closed door policy that hides the intricate system design of the operating system (OS) has come back to haunt them. Though it protects the vulnerability of their operating system, application developers have been shying away from developing apps for BlackBerry in favor of Apple and Android where there is more flexibility.
“The closed door policy is an advantage in the security front that is killing them on the innovation front. It turns out to be a major disadvantage. When people cannot create apps easily because you do not want them to know the intricate designs of your OS, you kill innovation,” he says.
Given the reduced number of applications and executives demanding more functions of their smartphones, they have turned to BlackBerry’s competitors mostly on the Android platform. Mwambia laments that BlackBerry’s greatest disadvantage has been their competitors biggest opportunity with their open source policy.
“Android is open source and community driven. You create apps when you want. It gets problems, it’s rectified by the community,” he said.
Android is just one of the newer problems. BlackBerry has been under attack since the launch of the iPhone back in 2007 with the latter overtaking interests on the Internet within 6 months. iPhone hit BlackBerry on its bastion the United States. BlackBerry has since played second fiddle.
However, these have not been the only undoings for BlackBerry. While better and more advance smartphones continue to be released into the market and at more affordable prices, BlackBerry has remained expensive despite its reduced capabilities.
On top of the high cost of the handset, there remains the cost of installing a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). The BES requires enterprises and governments to have an on-premise server and require a high level of IT control, an element eliminated by the new range of smartphones, which utilize pop/imap for email retrieving. Due to this, Blackberry has remained literary an email phone as opposed to a smartphone.
In addition, the limited apps on the BlackBerry platform are both expensive and less flexible as compared to other competitors who have both apps for business and fun.
So what still keeps BlackBerry afloat?
According to analysts, it is just a matter of time before IT managers decide on a better platform. Mwambia says companies are not as quick to change technology like individuals as proper evaluations have to be first carried out.
“There is still a market for BlackBerry. You do not wake up one day as the IT manager and decide to change your technology overnight. It takes time. And people are still not sure whats coming. So if I’m an organizstion with 50 users, and they all have corporate BlackBerry, I cannot just dismiss them overnight. You have to phase them out slowly,” he said.
According to Mwambia, BlackBerry-manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) is not asleep and will try to get its market share back. Whether that will work depends on time, or whether competitors will move to the next level of innovation ahead of BlackBerry.
“The worst mistake was to start playing catch up games with the competition. In this market, you must keep innovating. Doze off one day and your competitor is miles ahead along with your customers,” he said.
Mwambia added the greatest advantage other than the security features the phone has, is the quality of hardware.