Can BlackBerry survive the perfect storm of iPhone, Android, and now iPad?

Users are abandoning BlackBerry in droves -- but some hope remains that RIM won't sink

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3

An encouraging pair of developments at RIM are its forthcoming PlayBook tablet and its acquisition last week of UI design firm The Astonishing Tribe (TAT). What's significant is that RIM is turning to outsiders to save itself. The PlayBook is not a BlackBerry, but a new device with its own operating system, from QNX. TAT is known for its contributions to the Android UI (which I would classify as having a so-so UI, like Windows).

I'm not expecting anything of Apple-level quality from either acquisition, but judging by the PlayBook, it appears that RIM's management is not only looking for outside ideas to fix its hidebound culture but actually plans to use those suggestions. For RIM, the PlayBook is a major risk, as it is a new operating system. Yes, RIM plans to make the PlayBook compatible with the BlackBerry's world-class security capabilities and be manageable via BES, but it nonetheless is a break from RIM's hoary BlackBerry tradition.

The risk I see in the PlayBook is that it doesn't have native 3G capabilities -- you must tether it to a BlackBerry when not in range of a Wi-Fi network. Tethering a new product to an old product that is plummeting in popularity is a surfire way to hurt the new product and a sign of desperation (on the BlackBerry team) imposing bad product decisions (on the PlayBook team). Sure, some of RIM's corporate customers want the PlayBook to work only on their (wireless) networks, to prevent data leakage. So do what Apple did: Have some 3G models and some 3G-less models. That's not so hard.

Clearly, even where RIM has advantages, there are questions as to whether they are strong enough and whether RIM can execute on them. The company's history since 2007 doesn't inspire confidence, but unlike Nokia and Microsoft, RIM shows several tangible signs of an internal change that could slow or stop its freefall and make it a compelling second-tier provider after Apple and Google. It may be hard to go from first tier to second tier, but better that than to sink beneath the waves.

This article, "Can BlackBerry survive the perfect storm of iPhone, Android, and now iPad?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3
How to choose a low-code development platform