Something incredible happened last week. Over at Telecoms.com, The Informer, revealed that Nokia has made a profit. Yes Nokia. An actual profit. At least in Q412. It was €439m, and, just for handy comparison, Apple made $8.2 billion in the same time period. Still, while I’m not great at maths, I know a profit is better than a loss. Of course, it still made a massive loss overall in 2012, but for a company that everyone had pretty much given up the ghost on it’s a welcome, if surprising, bud of recovery.
Today another company is looking to return from the near dead. RIM, the Canadian owner of the Blackberry brand was once synonymous with phones that were smart, (email – in your pocket! Wow!) but times have changed. In 2010 RIM had 14 per cent of the smartphone market. In 2012 it was four per cent. Again, I’m not great at maths but… it clearly can’t continue to drop at the same rate as by the end of 2013 it wouldn’t exist.
So what’s the plan?
The plan is Blackberry 10 – an OS the company has bet the farm on. Things haven’t gone to plan so far though, and the OS, which was due to arrive in mid-2012 has been delayed not once, but twice.
However, as I type, are announcing Blackberry 10 OS and two new handsets to go with it – the touchscreen only Z10, which will feature LTE support, and a keyboard equipped X10 (because as we know, hardcore Blackberry fans will only give up their physical keyboard equipped handsets if you prise them from their cold, dead hands).
The Z10 is the flagship device and early reviews have been mixed. Joseph Volpe, Engadget tech site journalist described the hardware to the BBC as a, “full-on Monet, to borrow a line from the movie Clueless – attractive from afar, but disappointing up-close.” It seems that only Apple is able to churn out devices that have a truly premium look and feel.
As for the software, some analysts and tech journalists have had a preview and reports seem to be positive – a cool UI, and fast switching between apps and the BlackBerry Hub, which combines all your messaging services (email, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook etc.) into one location, are highlights.
Gartner’s Phillip Redmam has said that Blackberry 10 offers the best UI on the market, and that it has comeback potential. Stuart Jeffrey, Nomura Securities analyst observes that there is pent-up demand for new Blackberry’s from its existing fans, so there’s still a core market to tap into. I’ve always found it rather bizarre that this audience seems to be either be-suited, lawyer types, or streetwise, hooded, sexting obsessed teens.
At the launch the company made some smart moves, changing the company name from RIM, to Blackberry, which is what most people called it anyway. However, the show was clearly not up to the standard of Apple’s keynotes – PC Pro’s News Editor Nicole Kobie described RIM, sorry, Blackberry’s CEO Thorsten Heins as having, “all the charisma of a cheese sandwich.”
All the more impressive then that despite its precarious position in the market Blackberry has managed to line up a strong suite of names to offer apps compatible with BB10 OS – Skype, Amazon Kindle, SAP, Whatsapp, Angry Birds (this one is the most crucial, obviously), which at least prevents it from being a lame duck on day one. (Blackberry Playbook, I’m looking at you).
And with the flagship Z10 offering LTE it will be able to keep up with the rest of the competition. At least in the US – it supports LTE 700/850/1700/1900MHz, – but not 1800MHz, meaning that if it’s to support the UK and Australia it’s going to have to release a separate flavour capable on 800MHz and 1800MHz and 2.6GHz. So can RIM ‑ sorry, sorry – Blackberry, make a comeback? Well the jury is not so much out, as having announced that it is leaving the igloo and may be some time.
So can RIM ‑ sorry, sorry – Blackberry, make a comeback? Well the jury is not so much out, as having announced that it is leaving the igloo and may be some time.
Yesterday I talked to Bengt Nordstrom, co-founder and CEO of strategic wireless business consultancy, Northstream. Will we be reading next year of a Nokia-like bud, showing signs of recovery?
No, he said. (Nordstrom is never one to mince his words). Blackberry’s time has passed was his view. “It was a phenomenal thing. It was unique when it came 10 years ago but that era is over- we’ve moved on. I don’t think there is any way back”
Based in Sweden, Nordstrom expressed his surprise in the continued interest in Blackberrys that he sees in London and other parts of the world. “Every time I come here and Indonesia or the Middle East, Blackberry is big. The lawyers love it!”
So there we are, back to the lawyers. And when you’re relying on those who practice the dark arts for your continued success you know you’re in trouble.
Blackberry will be taking part in a panel discussion on content and OTT applications at the LTE MENA 2013 conference, so if you can make it to Dubai on the 12th-14th May, download a brochure so you can find out more.