Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blackberry Operating System

I sat down over a month ago and tried to write a review about Blackberry operating system by RIM (Research In Motion)... to no avail. It was pointless. I kept getting two to three paragraphs in and erasing everything I had, only to start over and write the exact same thing. What those two to three paragraphs kept boiling down to was this: Blackberry operating system, although innovative at one time, is outdated. Well here's what I did eventually come up with. Read more for the full story.

Let's get one thing straight first... I'm not saying that Blackberry can never make a come-back. They could. They'd just have to change, well, everything about the way they make phones. They have chosen, for the last several years (since the release of the iPhone) to go in a different direction than the iPhone and create something that is completely work oriented. That is all fine and dandy... that is, for the people who want that. But public opinion has told us that is not what most people want. They want something that is easy to use (Blackberry is anything but), has games on it (besides Oregon Trail and solitaire), has a good camera (the best to-date I've experienced is a 5 MP with a flash that takes pictures that are even more horrible than the iPhone 4), and a large touchscreen (keyboard with real buttons has become optional and unnecessary for most people). Instead what we see is a phone that has largely unchanged for the last 10 years. It has become thinner (kinda), smaller (kinda) and they've changed from the wretchedly designed trackball to a little bit less wretchedly designed "trackpad." And that keyboard? Still pretty much the same. The screen? Still tiny in most cases. Even the Blackberry Torch only touts a 3.2" touchscreen. In a world where all touch-screen phones with 4.3" screens rule the market, it is laughable.

So what am I getting at? Am I calling Blackberry's demise right here, right now? No. Definitely not. They've been around a long time and I believe they will continue to hang on for quite some time. I, however, am a good representation of a post-Blackberry phone era that is developing. When I see that QWERTY keyboard with a small screen perched on top, sandwiching a trackball or trackpad, I don't get the same nostalgic effect that someone ten years older than me gets when they see that design. I actually despise it. To me, it's what old people use. I picture a working professional with gray hair in the twilight of his career sporting a Blackberry in the bar after work talking about the good ol' days before I picture a high-schooler ever owning one (by choice). I also don't think I'm alone.

Now, Blackberry has enough of a following in countries where there is no competition to hold them afloat long enough to develop something worth while for the countries where there is. With Apple just announcing their new iPhone 4S today and the recent release of the Galaxy S II in the United States on three major carriers, not to mention the still freshly-announced "superphones" bearing Windows 7.5 (Mango) on the horizon, Blackberry has their work cut-out for them just to remain profitable, and even more so to remain relevant. In a four-horse race between themselves, iPhone, Windows 7, and Android, they continue to lose market share in the areas that it counts and are plagued by bad story after bad story (those words are all separate links, and paint a very accurate description of what Blackberry is experiencing right now). So how is Blackberry going to remain relevant to an entire generation and remain profitable?

Enter: QNX

Screenshot of QNX software operating on a Blackberry Playbook

QNX is a software company that was aquired by RIM back in August of 2010. Since then, it has been a dormant dream of Blackberry loyalists wanting more from their phones. There is no actual evidence that if Blackberry starts using this operating system on their phones that it will be successful. Most stories point to Q1 2012 before we even see the release of the first QNX smartphone, and even then, it is apparently going to be "rushed." The only thing we've seen so far running Blackberry's rendition of QNX software is the Blackberry Playbook tablet and we all know how that is going. There is a great opinion article here stating that QNX phones will be awesome and why they will be so awesome. I agree with it... as long as several criteria are met first.

1. Blackberry must take the time needed to make it's first QNX phone a worth-while investment for consumers. In my humble opinion, Windows Phone 7 did a horrible job at this. They released an operating system that was limited in several ways where other phone operating systems were not. Only now is Windows 7.5 (Mango) out making it a serious player and an amazing operating system, but consumers who have already tasted Windows 7 without the sweet taste of Mango added have come away with a bad taste in their mouth and are itching to get back to an iPhone or Android phone. RIM must not follow in those footsteps and rush it's first QNX phone to market just to get it there! It has done this all-too-often with other smartphones (the Torch and the Storm) and with awful results. Please, make the first QNX phone worth-while to modern-day consumers.

2. Make the first QNX smartphone magnificent and different from the norm (RIM's norm, that is). Blackberry is really good at the small screen and keyboard phone. Make this phone revolutionary and have it be an all-touch-screen phone that is easy to use. Throw the "must have an amazing battery life and be great at e-mail" mentality that is all-so-typical with RIM out the window and let loose a little. My hope for RIM is that they will now effectively have two operating systems: Blackberry and QNX. Blackberry can remain what it is; a phone for working professionals. QNX should be for everyone else and should be new, fun, and easy-to-use.

I truly believe that if RIM uses QNX in this way they can turn the company around. They were, at one time, innovative and new. They aren't anymore, but that doesn't mean that can't be again. Until then, I remain unimpressed and severely underwhelmed.

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