The Street: Top 4 Risks to BlackBerry

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Research In Motion is in an odd situation. They’re stock has recently increased by 100% as more analysts predicting good things for BlackBerry 10.

More and more people seem to want RIM to win. Carriers are especially excited for BlackBerry 10 as it adds to their catalogue of mobile devices to users.

Although, RIM’s troubling times aren’t completely over just yet. Anton Wahlman from The Street points out 4 possible risks to BlackBerry:

1. Contracts required. BlackBerry 10 is “last call” for RIM, at least in many countries. Many people have already left, mostly for Apple and Google smartphones, while others maintain two phones but are looking to consolidate to one. Yet others might be willing to sample BlackBerry 10 before they decide.

What could RIM do to throw cold water on its last chance in the market? How about requiring a two-year contract for its new, unproven, platform? Exactly. If RIM really wants to pick up a gun and shoot a big hole through its head to punctuate its last chance for survival, it should sell BlackBerry 10 through carriers requiring you to sign a two-year contract on an unproven platform.

If BlackBerry 10 is going to have a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding, it must do what Google did with its Nexus, or what Apple does with its iPhone: Offer the option to sell a carrier-independent device, SIM-unlocked and contract-free, directly from its own Web site, as well as AmazonBest Buy and so forth.

People want to try BlackBerry 10. They don’t want to sign a two-year contract for the privilege to sample an unproven platform.

2. Special plans required. One of the most annoying things about BlackBerry to date has been that it needs a special data plan for the data service. You can’t just stick a regular generic data SIM card from an Android or iPhone into a BlackBerry, and expect the data service to work. You need to change the carrier’s data plan, and it sometimes costs more.

Actually, the problem here isn’t that it costs more — it doesn’t have to — but just the fact that you need to change the plan with the carrier. For people who switch SIM cards between devices often, this is a total no-no.

That was BlackBerry of the past, operating system 7.1 and older. But what about BlackBerry 10? We don’t know. RIM has not said if their new devices will need a special BlackBerry-only data plan or not. For RIM’s sake, it had better not.

3. Someone else launches a great keyboard smartphone. Hello? Ask BlackBerry users why they still use one, and I imagine that almost 100% of them say the superior keyboard is the reason.

With the stiff competition breathing down their necks on all other fronts, RIM had better pray that an Android or Microsoft smartphone doesn’t hit the market soon with a competitive keyboard. If that happens, it’s likely all over for RIM.

4. Insufficient app support. This is a well-recognized hurdle. Even giant Microsoft, with tens of billions of dollars in the bank and a willingness to spend it on developers, is terribly behind Android and iOS in terms of the apps.

I have been using Windows Phone 8 for over six weeks, and I have been using Windows Phone 7.5 for over a year. The app quantity as well as the quality are simply not in the same league as Android and iOS.

The basic Windows Phone OS is fine enough — as BlackBerry 10 could very well be — but for me it’s just not a competitive option as long as many of the critical apps simply aren’t available, and others are inferior to the versions playing on Android and iOS.

Advice for RIM: Take Every Advantage You Can

Some factors are beyond RIM’s control. For example, it’s probably doing everything in its powers to convince developers to join the BlackBerry 10 platform, and if the competition gets its thumb out of its butt and launches a great keyboard device — well, too bad.

But there are other things RIM can do to maximize BlackBerry 10′s probability for success regardless. Here is one simple area of advice:

Make versions of BB 10 with really, really big batteries.

BlackBerry is all about serious people, whether they are working for a large enterprise or they are independent professionals and contractors. Nobody buys a BlackBerry because they think they are “cool” or a participant in a fashion show. They buy them because they are a power tool.

You know what the most un-cool thing is about a power tool? Being out of power, that is what.

RIM should advertise the BlackBerry 10 keyboard smartphone as the device where you can do to the Hamptons for a week-long vacation, or survive a week under a hurricane, without needing to charge the device. Instead of a 1,400-1,900 mAh battery, a BlackBerry 10 should come with an integrated 5,000 mAh or bigger battery. Hurricane Sandy should be a BlackBerry commercial.

You should be able to talk and email incessantly for a week or more — not seven hours as with my current BlackBerry. Seven days, not seven hours.

Nobody will complain that the device would be 4 millimeters thicker than it otherwise would have been.

RIM botched the PlayBook launch in March-April 2011 in the most epic set of ways imaginable, and it was obvious to everyone outside the company. It was like watching a car crash live.

RIM now has the capability to botch the BlackBerry 10 launch too: Just ensure that in order to buy BlackBerry 10, you have to sign a two-year contract, that you have to have a special data plan to operate it, and that it offers no significant battery life advantage over the competition.

If RIM can just clear BlackBerry 10 off those mine-fields, and the competition doesn’t finally emerge with a competitive keyboard, BB 10 could become successful even with a moderate application catalog deficit.

Do you agree with Wahlman’s 4 possible risks to BlackBerry? Sound off in the comments!






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