The Underdog Hits The Campaign Trail

This week down in San Jose, RIM is hosting BlackBerry Jam America. Its their own promotional event for their BlackBerry lineup for technical and business development audiences, and between the attendance and the previews of whats coming up for BlackBerry 10 there’s an abundance of proof that the company behind BlackBerry hasn’t been sitting idle.

I’ve been dying to see them rejuvenate the look and feel of BlackBerry OS with 2011’s acquisitions of Gist.com and The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), particularly now that Gist.com has been rolled up off the proverbial sidewalk and will now solely focus on the BlackBerry platform. There’s been a lot of talk about BlackBerry Cascades, the UI framework that TAT has been working on, but they’ve not done a lot to really pull back the curtain and showcase the overall experience of BB10.

…which has now been officially dubbed BlackBerry Flow. C'mon, take a peek and just try to tell me you’re not a little curious to see what else has been going on.

Some people question whether or not RIM and BlackBerry even matter anymore. Its vogue to act like the platform and company are dead and gone. Frankly thats the same crowd that says the Galaxy S3 is an iPhone ripoff, or that that Apple will fail without Steve Jobs, or that the earth is flat. Some of the popular remarks:

“They Have No Apps”

RIM has presented an offer to developers that some might see as desperate, but that makes sense - they’re desperate to grow their app marketplace! If you want to attract customers, and the main feedback is that the customers go where the apps are, then do everything you can to load up your marketplace. Its not a bad move: no other platform is paying you a cent - in fact they all take 30% off the top FROM you. Given that most app developers are small groups and individuals, commonly doing this as a hobby/side-gig/start-up, that $10,000 looks pretty good. Its not a hand-out either: getting $1000 in sales proves your app has some commercial traction, that its appealing to the customer base. How is this any different than typical startup venture capitalism?

“The BlackBerry UI Looks Ancient”

If you skipped them, go watch the above video links. Over the last few years RIM has acquired a lot of talent and tech thats going into BB10; QNX, The Astonishing Tribe, Tungle.me, Gist.com, Scoreloop, just to name a few. Starting from the operating system upwards, RIM has completely overhauled its handheld device lineup and we’re finally seeing the fruits of that labour. Labour that doesn’t happen in a single year.

“The Market Is Dominated”

Notice how everyone keeps waiting for this next big revolutionary announcement, but every announcement lately gets branded as “evolutionary” or “iterative”? Apple and Android are at the peak of their momentum; their sales don’t have the same rocket-fuelled ascent and the hype has started to overshadow the deliverables. They’re still great products, but the bar is set absurdly high for these companies - its almost impossible for them to truly deliver a mind-blowing announcement at this time in their dominance. Add in that smartphone culture is currently ruled by cool-factor, and you have a situation that presents an opportunity for something new. This isn’t a new phenomenon, this situation has happened before.

BlackBerry 10 is targeted for an early 2013 release according to the latest news from RIM, after they delayed it from being Q4 of 2012. They’ve had considerable layoffs, major revenue losses, and they’ve already faced a lot of negative press even with the delay; there’s no doubt that RIM is “all in” on this release… but then sometimes thats exactly the situation where you see something surprising happen.