Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Dec 2013 00:23 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

RIM grew into one of the world's most valuable tech companies. The BlackBerry became the indispensable accessory of business executives, heads of state, and Hollywood celebrities - until iPhone and Android came along and spoiled the party. Today the company, which has been renamed, simply, BlackBerry, is burning through cash as sales keep falling. On Nov. 21, BlackBerry shares closed at just above $6, the lowest it's been in almost 15 years.

Over the last two months, Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to dozens of current and former BlackBerry employees, vendors, and associates. Here is their account of the thrill of BlackBerry's ascension - and the heartache of watching its demise.

Aside from of course the personal tragedies that may arise from a possible complete BlackBerry collapse, I have little to no connection to the company or its products.

Except for one product.

I hope they release it as open source before it's too late.

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Why this disinterested negativity?
by boblowski on Fri 6th Dec 2013 14:11 UTC
boblowski
Member since:
2007-07-23

This barrage of BlackBerry bashing by people who admit to have never even used one, made me curious. So about two months ago I bought myself a Q10 (coming from a Galaxy S4), morbidly curious, expecting some kind of monstrosity to arrive on my doorstep...

After using it daily for a good six weeks now, I've really come to wonder what is going on here. What is all this negativity about?

The device itself feels solid, everything is responsive, nothing to complain about. Call quality is top. Camera, sound, screen are all decent to good depending on your demands, but certainly not bad. Whether you like a physical keyboard is of course a personal question, on average I think I myself might prefer it over a virtual keyboard.

BlackBerry 10 OS seems to be very well suited as communication tool. BlackBerry has some trouble explaining the (what they call) 'BlackBerry Hub' to customers, but it's really a very nice and convenient integrated communication environment, unifying all the different communication channels and linking all communication history to contacts. For what I need a phone for, it beats anything else I've ever used. Heck, it even beats many of the desktop CRM systems I've used.

Integration and synchronization (ActiveSync) for contacts, calendars, tasks and notes is supported out of the box and works well. The way notes and tasks are integrated in the rest of the system took me a bit of time get used to, but is very helpful and gives a lot of info and insight into my schedule.

The browser is good, every single site I need is rendered well and is usable, including Flash based sites. PDF's and office formats are supported out of the box, and my audio and video is handled correctly as well. Oh, and BBM with integrated voice and video conversations is really pretty neat, especially since it's fully integrated with everything else.

What stood out most for me is the level of usability and the integration of all the different parts. Every item can be tagged, searched, shared with and linked to. For just about every item there are short-cuts and small bits of cleverness to speed-up things to call/text contacts, add quick notes and reminders, change or update appointments, quickly share info. And judging by the amount of smaller and bigger updates I get the impression BlackBerry is putting a lot of effort in building and improving the OS.

Come to think of it, this whole BlackBerry feels more 'Apple' than any other mobile platform on the market, including Apple's iOS itself...

Could it be that most reviewers come from a different background and only focus on the 'smartphone' part of a device, without having any experience with or eye for the 'communicator' part? Or is it really as somebody (was it here on OSnews?) said just a few days ago, that the complete tech-press is nowadays run by 14-year old adolescents that only need 30 seconds to decide something is 'stupid' and 'boring'?

Reply Score: 7

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

No, I thought it was well reviewed at the time of release. See http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/30/blackberry-z10-review/ for a typical release review. Key quote at the end

But, tragically, there's really nothing to love. Nothing in the Z10 stands out as class-leading and, while the BB10 OS does have a lot of charm and brings all the best productivity-focused attributes of BlackBerry to bear in a much more modern package, the app selection is poor and the gestures here aren't so good that they make up for that major shortcoming.



Its also just been too long since the release of any previous good phones from them. The brand lost its cache. And while the phone is good, the app store is filled with even more crap than the play store.

Reply Parent Score: 3

arpan Member since:
2006-07-30

The Q10 was launched in 2013, right? Long after iPhone & Android had displaced Blackberries.

Basically, all their previous attempts to compete with the iPhone & Android were both too late and also extremely poor. The Q10 was one fo the first smartphones from Blackberry that was decent, but their customers had already moved on. If they want people to switch back, they need something that is better, not something that is still only catching up to the competition.

Reply Parent Score: 4

tylerdurden Member since:
2009-03-17

So about two months ago I bought myself a Q10 (coming from a Galaxy S4),


Uh? So you downgraded from an GS4 to a Q10 just because people were saying mean things about BlackBerry... Who the heck does that in real life?

Reply Parent Score: 2

arpan Member since:
2006-07-30

Options:

* He has a lot of money.
* He is curious about tech.
* He's a geek.

I'd get a Q10 and a Lumia 920 if I could justify the cost, just to try them out, as well as test my sites on them.

Reply Parent Score: 4

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

The device itself feels solid, everything is responsive, nothing to complain about. Call quality is top. Camera, sound, screen are all decent to good depending on your demands, but certainly not bad.


Both the Q10 and the Z10 are very solid devices running a still young but extremely well executed OS. No argument there.

BlackBerry 10 OS seems to be very well suited as communication tool. BlackBerry has some trouble explaining the (what they call) 'BlackBerry Hub' to customers, but it's really a very nice and convenient integrated communication environment, unifying all the different communication channels and linking all communication history to contacts.


No arguments here either - I have a friend with a Z10 and the "hub" is an absolutely killer feature. Rim did this particular thing better than anyone who has tried it before.

The browser is good, every single site I need is rendered well and is usable, including Flash based sites. PDF's and office formats are supported out of the box, and my audio and video is handled correctly as well. Oh, and BBM with integrated voice and video conversations is really pretty neat, especially since it's fully integrated with everything else.


Also agreed. I think the browser could use a little refinement, but overall it is on par with mobile Safari and Chrome on Android.

What stood out most for me is the level of usability and the integration of all the different parts. Every item can be tagged, searched, shared with and linked to.


Yep. It really is well designed and though out at the OS level.

Could it be that most reviewers come from a different background and only focus on the 'smartphone' part of a device, without having any experience with or eye for the 'communicator' part?


Actually the device was, for the most part, very favorably reviewed as far as that goes - most reviews I read hit the same points you are bringing up...

So why didn't it work out? Well it is all the things you are leaving out...

1. Apps. Apps. There are none to speak of (or at least worth speaking of). Being able to sideload Android stuff is a great extra, but like it or not the majority of consumers have moved on from that. They want an app store that has what they want in it. BB's app store is filled with huge amounts of low quality crap and very little to make wadding through it worth while... This one is number one because it can't be stressed enough, smartphones live or die on their app economy. Like it or not they are no longer just communication devices - they are social networking devices. Not in the sense of things like Facebook or what-ever, I mean literally - smartphones are primarily used to enable applications of network effect. People buy them, in part, for the promise of future compatibility with their friends and colleagues. If your app store is not getting the tier one apps everyone else is using when they come out, you are doomed.

2. Business focus. They really had to play this card, as it was their only card to play, but they primarily marketed to businesses. Thing is the landscape has changed in the last few years... Businesses, for the most part, don't decide what cellphone their users' are going to use. BYOD took off like a rocket (for various reasons benefiting both parties in the equation) and it makes little sense to market you devices to businesses when they are in fact no longer really buying them. Sure, lots of them end up being utilized for business use, but it is straight up general consumers doing the buying - and they are buying them for the consumer features...

3. No diversity. They had huge amounts of variable revenue, but it was caught up in a rapidly shrinking customer base... Rim simply wasn't financially capable of doing what Microsoft is doing, because they don't have alternative revenue streams. Microsoft can fight a long protracted battle and they can afford to make little or no money in mobile for years if they have to - they have other business lines that make lots of $$$...

4. Poor strategy. BB launched their counter attack with a tablet??? At the time tablets were almost purely a consumer oriented item. A business first company with business first ethos trying to sell tablets into a market that had not figured out what to do with them yet... Bad move - they should have attacked with a phone first, they may have gotten more traction. That is just conjecture on my part, but the Z10 released when the playbook came out (before most of their business customers fleed) might have worked...

5. Mindshare. No solution to this one. They simply waited too long. It is really hard to fight the kind of momentum Apple and Google built up with their stuff. Thing is though iOS and Android weren't really their biggest problem - it was Microsoft. I don't believe BB had any hope of ever gaining enough market share to overtake Apple or Google, but they were really in a battle for 3rd place - and I don't think there will be enough money in the "rest" of the market to support more than one big player for a long time. Microsoft is what killed them in the end...

Reply Parent Score: 6

slashdev Member since:
2006-05-14

I agree with this 100%, BB's biggest rival wasnt iOS or Android, it was Microsoft.

Anyway, as a BB10 developer, Blackberry was doing everything right on the SDK side, their platform SDK was amazing. It supported all the major languages (Java, C++, Flash, HTML/JS...and even Android!), it was clean and fast. It ran on Linux, Windows, Mac, etc.


My .02 cents on one simple thing i thought they were going to do to deal with the "app gap". I thought RIM was going to allow the google play store on their devices. I know that sounds "crazy" but again, i dont think android/iOS is their biggest issue. BB10 has this great feature, where you can have multiple workspaces, one for personal applications and data, and "work/corporate" spaces, that are controlled by your company IT department. If they set it up to where your google play store apps were sandboxed as well...either only available on the "personal" workspace area OR better yet create a third workspace thats just for android applications that has limited access and communication (or maybe none) with the personal side...and NO access to the corporate workspaces....i think that would have really steamed the flow of users who just needed their favorite android podcatcher or todo list app, or little time-sink game. They could have also positioned themselves as the "secure" way to use android applications....taking a little jab at google. And before you say google charges for the play store...RIM/Blackberry could have charged extra for this feature, making it cost neutral for them (How does $30 bucks sound to allow google play store compad?...).

Just an aside, B10 was almost there, the early beta playbook software with android compatibility allowed for you to install the google play store and install google apps. RIM removed play store compatibility for the final release. Though you could still "sideload" (using a web app provided by RIM) android apps...which you can to this day btw I dont know if the full release of BB10 on the Q10, Z10 allow it though, maybe someone who owns them can chime in.

Reply Parent Score: 1

arpan Member since:
2006-07-30

So, let me get this straight, the only reason you bought the Q10 was because people were criticizing it.

You didn't buy it because it was a great phone, or because a Blackberry ad impressed you with some unique feature of the phone. You bought it because you were curious.

Now, how many other people would do that? Do you think that Blackberry can survive on the curiosity of a few geeks like us? And that is the reason that RIM is failing, it has failed to give a convincing reason to people to buy a blackberry.

Reply Parent Score: 3

BallmerKnowsBest Member since:
2008-06-02

This barrage of BlackBerry bashing by people who admit to have never even used one, made me curious. So about two months ago I bought myself a Q10 (coming from a Galaxy S4), morbidly curious, expecting some kind of monstrosity to arrive on my doorstep...

After using it daily for a good six weeks now, I've really come to wonder what is going on here. What is all this negativity about?


Two main reasons, the first and most obvious being wishful thinking/volunteer-astroturfing by iFanboys - to be expected since most iFanboys are also anti-fanboys of any product that isn't made by Apple. They do the same thing whenever Windows Phone is mentioned, and they did the same in the past with webOS.

Second is the nature of the "mobile enthusiast" community in general, it's nothing more than the "kiddy table" of the IT world. It's dominated by people who lack the skills/experience/wits to properly grasp traditional computer technology* - instead they gravitate towards mobile because it lets them pretend to be technology experts without having to actually learn anything (in other words, poseurs & wannabes). So they're fundamentally incapable of appreciating the useful features of BB10, or any features that involve a learning curve more complex than "tap & drool".

*This becomes especially obvious when you start searching for how-to guides on doing anything remotely technical with mobile devices. Want to find out how to make your calendar app use your own self-hosted CalDav server? If you're lucky, you might eventually stumble across the instructions amongst the hundreds/thousands of guides for tasks that are similar, but don't really need a how-to guide to begin with (like connecting to a Google calendar account).

Reply Parent Score: 3