Once upon a time, the Blackberry was so addictive that misplacing one could lead to a panic attack, and a Blackberry outage could make the world tremble. In its heyday, a Blackberry was the ultimate status symbol for discerning technocrats, and it can probably be credited as the first device to tear down the barrier between work and the rest of your life.
Oh, how quickly times changed. These days “crackberry” is no longer a catchy epithet but merely a website for the dwindling community of die-hard Blackberry users. But don’t count them out yet: last week Blackberry (formerly Research in Motion) unveiled two new models (the Z10 and the Q10) and a new OS that will likely either make or break the company. So far, the reviews are cautiously positive. Walter Mossberg of the WSJ likes it, David Pogue of the NYT thinks it’s “lovely,” and the Verge thinks that buying one “wouldn’t be a mistake.”
Chances are that Blackberry will do well enough with its new devices to keep the company alive, but these days it’s simply not enough just to get the hardware right. Today users aren’t choosing platforms, but ecosystems, making a tech switch to a new platform an often prohibitively expensive affair. Many of us have invested hundreds of dollars in our mobile apps (which carry over when we upgrade our hardware), dozens of user profiles linked to those mobile apps, to say nothing of an increasing dependence on cloud services like iCloud and Google Drive.
Unfortunately for Blackberry, its mobile apps leave something to be desired. According to Business Insider, Blackberry’s been forced to develop knockoffs for popular apps such as Yelp, Pandora, Spotify, and Evernote. They’re also going to have to develop their own software for other must-have apps, leading Business Insider to conclude that “big companies like Facebook, Dropbox, Google, and a slew of others only take BB10 seriously enough to allow RIM to make apps for them.”
All that said, Blackberry was doomed without new and improved hardware, and that much it’s achieved. For the rest, Blackberry’s coming late to the game, but only time will tell whether it’s too late for them.