How RIM can save BlackBerry: Adopt Windows Phone

The BlackBerry is first and foremost a messaging device, and Microsoft's mobile OS is a modern messenger

Everyone knows that the market share of the once-dominant BlackBerry is on a fast decline, both among consumer users and enterprise users. The causes are also well known: Research in Motion's decision for several years to ignore the change in user demand, soon made clear by the rise of first the iPhone and then Android, as well as its ineffective moves to belatedly get with the program.

At this point, competing with iOS and Android is not in the cards for RIM. The world doesn't need or want another iPhone- or iPad-like operating system, as Hewlett-Packard painfully discovered in its short-lived WebOS initiative. iOS and Android satisfy that need. But when I talk with BlackBerry aficionados, I hear the same rationale for their devotion: They don't want apps, media, and all the other computer-in-your-pocket capabilities that Apple brought to the table. They want a simple messaging device for email, social networking, instant messaging (à la BlackBerry Messenger and SMS), and so on. That's long been the BlackBerry's strength and its key use in business, after all.

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Many longtime BlackBerry users like the old-fashioned, textual UI of the BlackBerry, and they dislike the icon-heavy, app-centric UI of iOS, Android, and the newest crop of iPhone-wannabe BlackBerrys. And RIM has had recent success in an unlikely market: Teenagers and 20-somethings in Britain, for example, like the BlackBerry precisely because it is a messaging device.

But even with the diehards and the young texters, BlackBerry is losing market share steadily. It doesn't help that RIM's attempts to appeal to a broader audience further confuses the market. RIM pushes military-grade security capabilities on one end and games on the other, but most of its devices are not well suited to run games and rich apps in terms of their screens and horsepower.

Here's a solution: RIM should modernize the BlackBerry where it stands out and is beloved: with messaging. When you look around the industry, you'll notice another mobile operating system that's all about modern mobile messaging: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. RIM should adopt Windows Phone 7 instead of pursuing its quixotic quest to create an iOS wannabe with the QNX operating system it bought 18 months ago. (That effort suffered a delay just this week.)

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