Is The Writing On The Wall For Blackberry?

There have been rumblings in the tech press for a while that RIM’s days may be numbered, and the latest survey data from the USA doesn’t make comfortable reading for shareholders.

US consumer researchers ChangeWave surveyed 4,136 smartphone buyers to see what they were planning to buy and found that Blackberry had a measly 4%, compared to 32% back in December 2008.

Apple and Android dominated the poll with 46% and 32% respectively.

So where has it all gone wrong for Rim?

Well I’m not sure it has gone wrong, I just think it’s gone more right for the competition. Blackberry handsets are as good as they ever were, but the iPhone and the top end Android phones are better.

Blackberry’s USP has always been email and a full qwerty keyboard, but those features are not unique any more. These days you’d be hard pushed to find a smartphone – even a cheap one –  that doesn’t do email, and virtual keyboards are at least as good as the minuscule keys on a blackberry.

The only other big plus of owning a Blackberry was BBM, but that only worked with other Blackberries and now there are a host of other instant chat clients that work cross platform.

Blackberry’s reluctance to stop clinging to the tried and tested bar-with-a-keyboard form factor is just one of the reasons that I think they’re sunk though. The big one is business.

Business users used to buy Blackberry phones without a second thought, they became a status symbol like the filofax did in the 80’s. Now business users have far more choice, and with companies cutting costs they are increasingly opting to not provide employees mobile phones.  Blackberries were cool if you were a businessman, but now iPhones are cool whoever you are.

But as RIM lost ground in the business marketplace they didn’t do enough to court consumers, they suffered from the same image problem that Microsoft have with the Windows brand – people equate it with work.

I get asked by friends and family fairly often for recommendations and I can’t remember the last time I suggested a Blackberry. Truthfully I can’t think of a scenario where I would suggest a Blackberry.

It’s a shame, it really is, there needs to be more than just iOS and Android but unless RIM and Microsoft up their games that’s where we’re headed.

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