Over the past couple of days, the web has been full of Google I/O news. From Nexus Q, to Glass and Nexus 7, it’s the talk of the town. Among the hub-bub of Android related news, you may be forgiven for having missed one of the most disappointing stories of the week so far. RIM announced that its problems are rising. In short, the BlackBerry makers are on their way out, unless something is done to ensure that they can survive and regain some serious market share. Although the board is still keen on pushing forward with plans to launch BB10, it’s possible that the firm will need to sell its email network services to another company and/or partner with Microsoft to launch Windows Phone devices.
It may not seem strange to those new to the smartphone game. Today’s iPhone and Android smartphones are tempting offers to anyone. They have tons of apps, great displays, and are extremely powerful. Who would want to choose a bland, business optimized smartphone that only excels at email, and battery performance? The operating system looks really dated, apps are few and far between, and stupidly expensive. Even its once loyal enterprise users are switching to iPhones. The future doesn’t look good for BlackBerry. RIM’s way of doing things has always been to do it all themselves. Software and hardware are vertically integrated. Sound familiar?
The iPhone, since its inception, has been a completely in-house affair. The hardware and software are both designed by Apple to be completely optimized for one another. But, the user interface – although evolved – is still essentially the same sea of app icons on a screen. The developer support is fantastic, as is access to multimedia, but, could that all change? Music and video is now available much cheaper, and legally through subscription services like Spotify, Netflix and LoveFilm (UK). So, fewer people will have to rely on iTunes for their media as cloud based, subscription service grow. Which leaves hardware, operating system and apps. Since the operating system hasn’t changed all that much, are we now relying on Jony Ive and his team to design a completely new device to get everyone excited again?
It’s been over two years since the iPhone range got a redesign, and the massively influential Steve Jobs is no longer around. And, if I’m honest, I worry that in 5-10 years time we’ll still have the same looking phone, with the same operating system, and something else will come along that makes it look how BlackBerry looks now. Don’t get me wrong, I think that BB10 looks like a fantastic OS. But then again, so did Palm’s webOS. Not enough risk taking, and a failure to innovate meant that it didn’t stand a chance.
5 years ago, if you’d have told anyone who knew smartphones that BlackBerry would be on its way out, no one would have believed you. The company dominated the smartphone market. Windows Mobile and Symbian were the only two competitors, and they were incredibly slow, and unreliable. WinMo had a reputation of being really fiddly, and needed a stylus. Symbian seem to slow to a halt once you started actually using it. BlackBerry was the daddy. But, BlackBerry has carried on churning out what is essentially the same device over and over again. The touch screen phones were a complete flop, and RIM failed to create an attractive, consumer friendly phone that the masses would swarm to purchase in the same way they do with the iPhone, or Galaxy S series smartphone.
Now, I’m not sure that Apple needs to be worried yet. The company has more cash than the US government, and is the most valuable company in the world. It’s the least likely company to disappear. But, that doesn’t mean the iPhone doesn’t need to step up its game. Sure, right now it’s incredibly popular, but, I believe it needs to show everyone again why it is the number one phone. Apple needs to keep on improving on the hardware and software side, and not be afraid to try something new. There’s only so long that we – the users – can look at the same interface before it starts looking really, really old. And, once a UI starts to look dated, it will become less popular, no matter how many apps are on there.
Bottom line: Blackberry was once number 1. It kept doing things the BlackBerry way, and is now suffering. It got stuck in a rut. The CEO is deluded and thinks the company is still innovating. The iPhone is number 1. Who knows, in 5-10 years time it might not be unless Tim Cook and his crew make some brave decisions and create something completely new – again.
Do you think the iPhone will disappear if it keeps going the way it is? Does Apple need to drastically change its design/user interface to set the world alight again? Sound off in the comments section.