Research In Motion (RIM) Thursday last week said that its before-year-end release of BlackBerry 10 OS will hold off until the first quarter of next year.
The Canadian smartphone maker admitted that getting BB10, the company’s ultimate attempt at keeping BlackBerry devices significant in the consumer market, prepared for prime time is “more time consuming than anticipated.” RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said he will not risk the new BlackBerry operating system with an substandard product. Even if the promise of having a better BlackBerry 10 device is music to the ears, a 2013 release is also a compromise. RIM might regret its late arrival by that time.
Before the year-end, Windows Phone maker Microsoft will put into play a much-needed roll out for its mobile platform’s highly anticipated update. It will come with better support for enterprises, an attempt that will put together the Redmond-based software giant and RIM in direct competition. Enterprise support is the BlackBerry maker’s main source of revenue.
In addition, Apple is likely to launch an upgraded version of its record-breaking iPhone handset this year.
Making matters worse for RIM is Google. The search giant recently rekindled excitement over its mobile OS with the launch of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
That’s a lot of intense competition to lure BlackBerry users away from their physical keyboard-centric devices and into the shiny touchscreen world of iPhones, Lumias, and Nexus devices.
Bad News After Bad News
RIM’s recent news apparently went from bad to worse.
In a report by Social Barrel’s Solon Harmony Dolor, RIM’s CEO said in a statement that, contrary to media reports and industry followers, “there’s nothing wrong” with the company.
However, “RIM posted a $518 million loss for the first quarter of the year which is the company’s first net loss in eight years,” Dolor continued. Consequently, RIM will lay off 5,000 jobs out of its 16,500 workforce.
Despite Heins’ keeping the RIM spirit high, the company really is shedding off money, shrinking in revenue, and having an entire quarter of lackluster device shipments.
From now until as far back as March this year, RIM has shipped a mere 7.8 million units of BlackBerry smartphones and 260,000 PlayBook tablets.
In comparison, the latest quarterly report from Apple saw iPhone sales reaching 35 million units and iPad sales skyrocketing at almost 12 million units. Google has the most mind-boggling news of all: one million Android device activations daily.
What Waits for BlackBerry 10 Next Year
When BlackBerry 10 arrives early next year, the full-blown smartphone market will have gone forward with tighter competition at the top.
By then, RIM would have given Windows Phone maker Microsoft and its partner, Nokia, leeway as its closest competitor. Microsoft is set to release Windows Phone 8, the latest version of its mobile platform. With the BlackBerry maker’s decision to postpone the release of BlackBerry 10, Microsoft will have at least 90 days to hook users away from BB devices. Windows Phone 8 centers on playing games and enterprise support, whereas BlackBerry OS is popular only for the latter.
Windows Phone already comes with deep integration into Microsoft Office. In Windows Phone 8, the company brings BitLocker Encryption, secure boot and device management. It also has Company Hub for businesses to spread out their own apps and related information to company devices.
Moreover, the Windows Phone Marketplace apps store is faring well against Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store compared with RIM. Microsoft recently announced passing the 100,000 apps mark for its mobile apps store, whereas RIM only has around 89,000 apps on BlackBerry App World.
The threat and likelihood of thumping RIM more does not stop there. If Microsoft cannot capitalize on the BlackBerry 10 delay, Apple might do it with a new iPhone.
It is still unclear what Apple has in store for its next smartphone. So far, we all now know that iOS 6 brings a bunch of new and improved features. The software update will include Apple’s own Maps app, better Facebook integration, enhanced Siri functionalities, improved Mail app and calling features, travel documents via Passbook, coupons and loyalty cards. Apple, however, has yet to announce officially that a new iPhone is coming, but most critics and industry observers believe that it will release a new one before the year-end.
Then Google falls in line. The BlackBerry maker needs to deal with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean successfully. The search giant’s latest mobile operating system touts Google Now, a voice-guided navigation software that competes directly with Apple’s Siri. In addition, Jelly Bean has better notifications, an improved camera and offline voice typing. Google has not yet announced a new Nexus flagship smartphone with Jelly Bean out of the box. However, it recently introduced the Nexus 7, the company’s first self-branded tablet that will arrive within this month.
RIM actually has a committed BlackBerry fan/user base of approximately 78 million people. While others may jump ship to rival operating systems, it is highly likely that most will hide their wallets until BlackBerry 10 arrives next year. The brand is popular for offering the most secure wireless communications features and servers in the smartphone industry.
Does RIM still have the facilities to challenge the many new features and mobile devices from three of the biggest tech companies that are clashing operating systems in the smartphone arena?
Early next year is a long time from now, and RIM executives are currently sitting on the hot seat of finding a way to salvage its falling revenue. According to Reuters, the company already is considering options to dump BlackBerry 10 for Windows Phone 8, or selling its proprietary BlackBerry network.
While we cannot say the smartphone/tablet industry has reached a saturation point, BlackBerry fans should be concerned – worst of all, be very afraid.
RIM might be able to hold the line, but with six to nine months of delay until BlackBerry 10, its chances of making a comeback will just get thinner.