A slippery slope for RIM and the BlackBerry?
Sad shaking of the head
The news that RIM is launching a consumer/prosumer device called the "Pearl" (aka BlackBerry 8100) has got me all mixed up.
As an industry analyst, I can see the logic of what our Canadian friends are doing – releasing a device that is more likely to appeal to the masses than the BlackBerry QUERTY classic and RIM's first attempt at the “candy stick” form factor, the 7100 series.
As a hard core BlackBerry user myself, though, I also feel betrayed and that my loyalty has been abused. Sexy they are certainly not, but the great thing you could say about the BlackBerry family – to this point at least – is that all of the models put the focus on simple, effective, uncluttered utility. As mobile email devices, BlackBerries have traditionally always done what they said on the tin, with no distracting and superfluous frills.
And now, it pains me to say that RIM's latest baby includes a ...CAMERA!!!
Not quite as distressing, but still a bit uncomfortable is the disappearance of the trusty thumb wheel, which is actually one of biggest reasons I have stuck with the BlackBerry myself over the years (apart from battery life, indestructibility, security, recoverability and simplicity, of course). An alternative track-ball thingy, that looks a bit like a pearl (hence the name) is how the 8100 is navigated.
RIM assures its loyal followers in the business sector that it will not take its eye off delivering mobile devices for grown ups, but with the call of the mass market and so many people gunning for RIM in its enterprise heartland, could this push RIM down the slippery slope into the land of the Finnish giant where gimmicks and fashion rule? How long before we see the iBerry music device with “push music” functionality?
On a serious industry note, RIM is undoubtedly hoping that it can persuade its mobile operator clients to renew their efforts with BlackBerry in the retail channel, but here, like in the enterprise space, the competitors are already active – not least, the operators themselves with own branded push email services back ended by companies like Visto.
Meanwhile, I’m hanging onto my old fashioned BlackBerry, no matter how much abuse I get for lack of street credibility when I visit all the RAZR toting media types down at Vulture Central.
Anyway, do you agree with my concerns about RIM? Think I’m mad?
If this latest development or anything I have said moves you in any way whatsoever – or if you have any general thoughts on the area of mobile email, click on over to the debate we have running on the topic here.®
They already started making mistakes with the 8700
I have an 8290. It's a real bb. Maybe the last real model. Full qwerty kb, very convenient holster, long battery life, quick recharge times. The lousy parts are the screen (old generation, low dpi, bad colors), slow gprs, awkard internet navigation. Thank god for bblight, at least auto screen light is not longer an issue.
Enter the 8700. Yes it has a new generation screen and better internet browser. Oh and poliphonic ringer, c'mon, we're business users here not teenagers. And now the problems. Holster sucks big time, it's closed type with magnetic lock. No more "draw it like a gun with one move". Screen goes completely off when you don't use it (I hate that, I have to see a any time what happens). Battery is a tad smaller. Keyboard is not so comfortable.
And the down slope has begun.
Best Converged Device?
I've been using BlackBerry devices exclusively since the 6710. I've loved and appreciated the utility appeal and the "keep it simple" design. Being primarily a business user, I was leery of RIM's idea to create a consumer-friendly device. I expected their first attempt to be a bulky, 7100-like device with a poorly implemented camera and MP3 player. I was very surprised when I got my hands on the Pearl. As said in other comments, though they have added many features yet kept operation simple and intuitive (unlike WM5 and Symbian devices). Sure, using SureType takes a bit of getting used to but they have made significant improvements over earlier versions.
As soon as I got the Pearl, I set aside my 8700, knowing that it would easily replace it. I was skeptical about the trackball at first, but soon found it very easy to control. The bi-directional control with one hand makes it superior to the trackwheel. Sure, I didn't have as large of a screen, but the form factor makes it much easier and comfortable to hold while on a call. I'm still exploring the day-to-day usability though must admit that the Pearl appears to be an absolute winner. For those of you who have been using two devices (say a RAZR for voice and a 8700 for messaging) it is time to put them both away and get a Pearl. The integration of data and voice services makes the BlackBerry hard to beat. Along with that you now get a great form factor of the Pearl. For those of you who haven't taken a close look at the Pearl in person, check it out when you can. In the meantime, take a look at http://www.blackberrypearl.com. No, I don't work for RIM, but I do work for a carrier. Don't let that make you feel like my opinion is biased. The device speaks for itself.
I think the only thing that is really upsetting Dale is that he doesnt get the feeling of being the 'Executive Elite' by waving around an ungly device that is only used by those who feel that they are so important that they cannot be separated from their email.
Although most consumer users would like to have access to their mail when on the move, nobody was seriously going to shell out on a device that is only good for mail and nothing else (and lets face it, who wants to be seen talking in to something that looks like a small blueberry pancake).
Cleverly, RIM have decided to take mobile email more mass market - boo hoo what are all those execs going to do now to get that feeling of self importance?