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BlackBerry 10 OS: Scripting Victory in Indian Enterprises?

o Ershad Kaleebullah
21.02.2013 kl 20:49 | Computerworld India

When you take a closer look at Research in Motion's (RIM, now BlackBerry) growth trajectory, it is possible to draw an analogy with Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan's life. Lovingly called 'Big B' by fans, his acting career reached dizzying levels of stardom until the early 90s. However, a long string of flops, the arrival of a younger breed of actors--especially the Khans, and bankruptcy made trade pundits and those watching his career closely predict that he had reached the 'point of no return'.

 

When you take a closer look at Research in Motion's (RIM, now BlackBerry) growth trajectory, it is possible to draw an analogy with Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan's life. Lovingly called 'Big B' by fans, his acting career reached dizzying levels of stardom until the early 90s. However, a long string of flops, the arrival of a younger breed of actors--especially the Khans, and bankruptcy made trade pundits and those watching his career closely predict that he had reached the 'point of no return'.

However, Big B shot back to fame with "Mohabbatein" and became a household name as the inimitable host of the game show "Kaun Banega Crorepati." The transformation was a success, and the phoenix had risen from the ashes.

The Crest and Trough in BlackBerry's Story

Research in Motion (RIM) has a similar story (did you notice that both Big B and BlackBerry are BBs?). But unlike in Bachchan's life, RIM's success story started in the 90s.

Their dogged pursuit of innovation in wireless data communication led to the creation of a true (because it was wireless) personal data assistant (PDA) -- the RIM 900 Inter@ctive Pager. The inclusion of a physical keyboard in the next iteration -- 950 -- introduced the world to its first real BlackBerry device. It had 'hit' written all over it. First to the party and early-adopters were the professionals at Wall Street. The device could sync e-mails on the move; what else could they ask for?

It was a smooth ride for the company until 2007, when the turtle-necked messiah of Apple--an indirect competitor, announced the iPhone. Its advent led to people's getting attracted to touch-based portable devices like kids' taking to candy. Adding to RIM's woes were the entry and subsequent phenomenal sales of Android phones and internal management issues that plagued the growth of a company that stood for innovation.

Also read: BlackBerry 10 OS Will Have Multi-Layered Security Model

BlackBerry phones were no longer cutting it in a market filled with cheap and faster smartphones. They were turning into mere 'alternatives' -- a position you don't want to be in the world of mobile phones.

Reinventing was the only option that remained, and BlackBerry chose just that. This reinvention started with acquiring QNX systems in April 2010. QNX has a long history in the embedded systems market. A version of QNX is the underlying base for BlackBerry's failed tablet -- the Playbook. However, QNX is at the heart of the BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system (OS) featured in the recently unveiled flagship smartphones: Z10 and physical keypad-totting Q10. In a bold move and for reasons unknown, RIM is now BlackBerry. "One brand, one promise," is their new motto or that is what Thorsten Hein, the smartphone-maker's CEO is propagating anyway.

Everybody from technology analysts and journalists to BlackBerry's loyal fans and the common users realize this is BlackBerry's last ditch effort. Will the erstwhile smartphone market leader rise from the ashes like Amitabh Bachchan did, or get lost into oblivion and enter the list of "Tech companies that didn't last the race"? (Case in point: Kodak)

Also read: BlackBerry 10 Looking Good, says SAP CIO

The Excitement in the Air

It is indeed too early to predict the future of BlackBerry right now, but there is a group of people who have stood by the company and are embracing the new OS. They are the IT leaders of the enterprise, the CIOs.

An excited Sharat Airani, chief IT -- systems and security, Forbes Marshall, says, "Fans like me have waited nearly a year for a new BlackBerry release. On first viewing, the wait could be worth it."

Similarly, Manish Shah, GM-IT at Indus Fila, cannot control his excitement about BB10 too. He says, "BB10, in one word, is outstanding. It is now actually an OS and not just an e-mail platform with extended app functionality. It has speed, an intuitive user interface, and some more great features."

Pros and Cons -- The CIO Perspective

It is a universally acknowledged fact that nobody makes keyboards for portable devices like BlackBerry does. Now, when a company tries to veer away from its field of expertise and creates a flagship phone -- Z10 -- without a physical keypad, you know it is bound to invite debate.

"Touch is now indeed a key feature of the device, call it a competition or the flow of the day, but I am more comfortable with typing lengthy e-mails on a hard keypad than on a touchscreen," says Airani.

Contradicting his views is Mehta. "A physical keypad is not necessarily important for a professional on-the-move. Traditionally, all users were only exposed to using gadgets with physical keypads, whereas almost all new and advanced gadgets are all touch-based."

However, Shah is neutral. "Coke or Pepsi? Physical keypad or virtual keypad on touchscreen? It's the same. Both have their own set of loyal fans. I feel the younger generation prefers on-screen keypad, whereas the others are more comfortable with the physical one."

Also read: Blackberry 10 Launch Reaffirms That This is BlackBerry's Year

But BlackBerry has persisted on making the touch-enabled on-screen keypad work as efficiently as an alternative to its physical counterpart. "The trusted, secure device has friendly and easy-to-navigate home screens with amazing typing speed due to auto-flow and flash/prompt of words to form sentences just by sliding the finger," informs Mehta, who uses two BlackBerry devices: The Bold 9700, and the Playbook.

In fact, Mehta goes on to make a list of positives he has noted in the new platform. "BB10 has a new peek and flow feature, screen sharing that can allow users to share work and make presentations, voice chat and video conference on BBM, data partitions for work-related official data and personal for greater security, bookmarks for future read, fantastic screen for video and images and the plethora of business apps which will help corporate users on the move."

Indian CIOs are also clued into the mobile market space and have a few thoughts on how BlackBerry can regain lost ground. Shah suggests the following few steps:

- BlackBerry needs to delink its e-mail service from the handset and stop charging a premium for it.

- Offer the service on other mobile OSes and in turn encourage wider adoption.

- Make good of the lead over Windows 8 and Samsung Bada in terms of user base and (usable) apps availability during launch.

- Consolidate and move forward.

Despite constant delays since the announcement of the OS in May 2012, fans have waited for it, with bated breath. Finally, BlackBerry (then RIM) asked journalists to mark their calendars for the 30th of January, 2013. When everything was over and the world was introduced to the Z10 and the Q10, loyalists heaved a collective sigh of relief.

Technology enthusiasts did get hands-on time with the device, and more time later. Shah is already testing a Z10, and Mehta has managed to get a sneak preview. Mehta says, "I have so far had a sneak hands-on experience with the Z10, and it is quite amazing. Users who have used the Bold 9900 will find that Q10 looks and feels similar."

A self-proclaimed diehard fan of BlackBerry, Airani says, "My opinion of RIM (now BlackBerry) has now changed -- for the better. I was impressed by what I saw. They can't afford to get this wrong. Customers waiting for BB10 will not accept another false start."

Yes, indeed. BlackBerry cannot afford to get it wrong this time.

Keywords: Mobile  
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