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BlackBerry 10: Past, Present and Future

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BlackBerry 10 is probably the most controversial mobile platform out there today. People love to have an opinion of this company, especially the media.  Heralded by some as the generation of mobile, it is also dismissed by others as the last gasp of a company desperate to stay relevant.

Most tech media articles today tend to err on the side of sensationalism, making it seem as if somehow BlackBerry is being sold for parts while simultaneously making the comeback of the century.  Regardless of these claims, the facts are that BlackBerry is still around after numerous claims of their doom years ago, while still not laughing all the way to the bank.

I’ll give a brief, chronological review of the BlackBerry platform post-Z10 launch to help you make your own realistic opinion of where BlackBerry is headed.  Let’s get started.

Past

With the global (but not so global) launch of BlackBerry 10 in late January, the day had finally arrived where someone could actually buy a BlackBerry 10 smartphone, the BlackBerry Z10.  At least, this is true if you lived in the UK. After years of expecting the QNX-based operating system on future BlackBerry smartphones, the day has finally come. The Z10 wasn’t just another one of BlackBerry’s smartphones though. It clearly marked a tons of firsts for BlackBerry.   The first BlackBerry device to run a non-java based OS. The first ultrahigh resolution screen on a consumer smartphone with over 350ppi. The highest HTML5 score for any release browser, ever. I could go on for hours.  This is clearly the most important BlackBerry  smartphone that the company has ever launched.   I say this because this isn’t a real BlackBerry as they are perceived today.  This is a completely new smartphone platform that just so happens to be by the same company that made previous BlackBerry smartphones. Any resemblance to older BlackBerry smartphones is purely for nostalgia and an attempt for BlackBerry to stick to their roots.

The initial reviews of the smartphone have mostly settled on “favourable, but not good enough” for the Z10.  Some reviewers have loved it, while others have hated it.  The main argument seems to hinge on whether it is good enough to switch from the iPhone, or from one of the newer Android smartphones.  On the issue of switching platforms to BlackBerry, reports have surfaced about many Z10 sales going to those who switched from the iOS and Android platforms.  While this could either mean that those from Android and iOS are leaving their respective platforms in droves, it is probably referring to the lower number of sales for current BlackBerry users.

When talking about security and BlackBerry smartphones, its still the same story.  BlackBerry comes out on top over any smartphone platform yet.  Some tech media have jumped the gun to propose that the security-conscious Pentagon will be switching to iPhones from BlackBerry.  These reports have simply confirmed that the Pentagon will be moving to multiple devices.

Despite not forming lineups to hand over 600$+ for a smartphone, reports of the Z10 sales have been good in the UK and Canada.  After only a couple months, the platform managed to break the 100,000 app count milestone.   In late March, BlackBerry managed to pull a surprise profit, and beat Wall Street’s expectations.  This is at the same time as they announce that 1 million Z10s have been sold already.  This also comes as BlackBerry posted a subscriber loss as well.  I’ll do you a favour and help you interpret the news; it means the Z10 has decent sales.

Present

More recently, BlackBerry 10 was reported to be not secure enough for the British government in its present state, see here too for more misleading and premature reporting.  Many blogs included (irrelevant) mentions to the iPhone in some areas of government, implying that the security of the iOS platform approaches that of BlackBerry without back-end services built into the BlackBerry service.  A update from CESG attempted to clarify that they have not even begun to test the security of the new platform, yet they have confidence in the new platform.

The BlackBerry Z10 also launched in the important US smartphone market.  According, the US market has geared up on some reports of very high returns of BlackBerry Z10s and a survey that indicates that Americans are largely unaware of the launch of BlackBerry 10.  The  allegedly high return rates have been denounced by BlackBerry, with Verizon also supporting BlackBerry’s claim.  BlackBerry has followed up their talk with some action, filing requests for investigation on the the announced data.

Pre-orders have already started for the Q10, BlackBerry’s latest smartphone with a physical keyboard.  BlackBerry has launched a neat in-browser demo of how BlackBerry 10 would be like on your current (and potentially non-BlackBerry Z10) smartphone.  As far as advertising goes, BlackBerry and Microsoft have been spending quite a bit on ads for their respective platforms to take on the industry leaders: Google and Apple.  Efforts by the media to convince people that the new BlackBerry Z10 lets people on your contact list know you’re watching porn, despite it just being a media sharing feature that’s been in place for years.

Future

So is it time to sell the company or is BlackBerry the next Apple?  Without my trusty crystal ball, I’m unfortunately unable to give you a spoiler.  I will, however, say that you most likely won’t see either scenario in the next few years. I know, boring, isn’t it?  What you can take home from the past few months is that the BlackBerry Z10 isn’t bad, many people want a few apps they’re used to that aren’t there, sales are decent, and contrary to popular belief, BlackBerry isn’t going to be sold by tomorrow night.

It has been all too common for tech media to regurgitate negative reports and to correct to themselves the day after on the subject of BlackBerry.  Unfortunately, the truth about the company’s success has become mutually exclusive from anything interesting.  Therefore, I find it best to ignore any wildly positive or negative reports when it comes to BlackBerry.  For the time being, the future of BlackBerry will be “steady as she goes” relative to the fast pace of the smartphone industry.  The arrival of the next full touchscreen offerings this fall from Blackberry, Apple, Microsoft and Google should mark an inflection point in market share for all companies involved, and when the competition will truly heat up.

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Physicist by day and technology lover by night. I enjoy the finer things in life, like McDonalds burgers, Ford Focuses and riding the bus. I'm here to give you all the information and honest perspectives on everything BlackBerry!