BlackBerry's new product story: Can it really work?


Among the slew of corporate results yesterday, Research In Motion's announcements yesterday were quite interesting. RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphones is looking to turn around its faltering handset business to compete with the iOS and Android smartphones that now have some 90% market share together.

For starters, RIM has changed its name to "BlackBerry". Even the stock symbol has been changed from "RIMM" to "BBRY". What a name change (and a stock symbol change) can do for a company's turnaround is beyond me, but the other announcements by BlackBerry are far more interesting.

BlackBerry announced the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 line of phones with two smartphones. The Z10 is a 4.2 inch phone running BB10 and the Q10 has a physical keyboard for the BlackBerry loyalists.

What's most interesting, though, is the product ecosystem that BlackBerry is building around its new BB10. There are signs that BlackBerry is finally "getting it", and pulling its act together.

BlackBerry's strength has always been in the corporate and enterprise world, and its previous attempts at hopelessly copying the Apple and Android OSs have fallen totally flat. Perhaps learning from those mistakes, the new BB10 puts a "enterprise-first" foot forward, while neatly integrating the consumer experience that everyone is now used to.

As a part of this strategy, BlackBerry has a suite of neat tools. Firstly, there is the "BlackBerry Hub", which is an integrated interface to deal with all kinds of messaging - From email to SMS, from Facebook to Twitter. From the demos we've seen so far, this seems like a really neat way to organize and interact with the social world.

BlackBerry's recent developer promotion to port Apps to BB10 seems to have paid off. BlackBerry World now boasts some 70,000 apps, with a lot of the most popular apps already covered, and many of the rest coming soon.

The new BlackBerries

Continuing with the integrated experience, there's another neat feature called "BlackBerry Balance" that separates out your work email and apps from your personal accounts. This is a really big deal for the enterprise. Integrated with BlackBerry's enterprise mobility solutions, this should be a big hit with corporate IT departments.

Then there are other nice touches like "BlackBerry Remember", an integrated hub for memos, tasks and reminders, and "Story Maker", which lets you edit Video and photos together on your device.

How well this new strategy will pan out remains to be seen, but BlackBerry gets full marks for effort. Its product strategy finally seems to be coming together with a good balance of focus on their core enterprise users and the consumer story.

BlackBerry's global market share is just above 1% right now. There's intense competition from the established giants (iOS and Android), and a deep-pocketed Microsoft that is pushing its own platform. BlackBerry has taken the right first step, but it needs to ensure this is not a case of too little too late.


Updates from around the world