No hard keyboard for first of new BlackBerries?
The first BlackBerry device running Research In Motion Ltd.’s new operating software will not have a physical keyboard, only a touch-screen one.
However, most BB users are shy to try the touchscreen offerings of Androids or Apple prodcuts for more than a few minutes, eschewing the 1-2 week learning curve that would make them more proficient than they expect to be. The BlackBerry 10 system has already been delayed about a year (as it was supposed to make an appearance in the first quarter of 2012, which has since come and gone) and with additional delays to get a physical keyboard, those people may not be willing to wait any longer, especially as the iPhone makes greater in-roads in corporate settings. Those users may simply get the new iPhone expected this fall, whose Model 5 is looking to capture an even greater share of the North American Market.
RIM’s hopes hang on the BlackBerry 10 system, which is meant to offer the multimedia, Internet browsing and apps experience customers now demand. The Canadian company is preparing to launch the new software later this year, just as North Americans are abandoning BlackBerrys for iPhones and Android devices. By continuing to hold off on its release, Blackberry continues to seal its fate, relying on releasing poor touchscreen and auto correct devices that continue to fall short of Android and Apple offerings.
Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial, called it puzzling that RIM isn’t leading with its strength by releasing a keyboard BlackBerry first.
“The physical keyboard is the most dominant item that separates out Research In Motion from its competitors,” Gillis said. “If you are not playing to your historical strengths you may find it more difficult to get traction.”
Gillis said there is a spot in the market for RIM but the company “just got to get it together.”
But Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said BlackBerry 10 is all about touch and closing the gap with Apple, so people should not be surprised that the initial model will have only a touch screen.
“They are going to build a BlackBerry device with a keyboard, but it’s just going to take longer,” Misek said. “Maybe it will come a month or two after, but frankly it might be already too late.”
RIM once dominated the corporate smartphone market but failed to adapt to the emerging “bring your own device” trend, in which employees use their personal iPhones or Android devices for work instead of relying on BlackBerrys issued by their employers. As the movement caught on, the iPhone made the BlackBerry look ancient.
RIM’s future is far from certain as its flagship devices rapidly lose market share to flashier phones. With more than $2 billion in cash, bankruptcy seems unlikely in the near term. But RIM’s U.S. share of the smartphone market fell sharply from 44 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2011 according to market researcher NPD Group.
RIM said Wednesday it has started laying off employees as part of a restructuring plan aimed at saving about $1 billion this year.
RIM’s stock fell 27 cents, or 2.6 percent, to close Thursday at $10.07.
Unless Blackberry can capitalize on its strengths, such as a physical keyboard, and quickly embrace the supposed Android app support that they continually promise is “around the corner”, they will have a tough time capitalizing on new customers, and much be content to continue to support the (waning) number of Enterprise customers who are more and and more attracted to other platforms.