To say that Research in Motion has actually lost its position in the smartphone industry is inaccurate since generations of BlackBerry users still exist — but most agree that the company is in extreme peril in that market. The International Data Corporation reported that RIM is in the fifth spot for global smartphone shipments, owning only 4.6% of the 2012 market share — a long, drawn-out slump for the company that sparked the smartphone craze in the late 1990’s. With sluggish numbers of phone shipments and dwindling subscribers, RIM’s launch of two new smartphones — the Q10 and Z10 — on January 30 will be the barometer for its future success or failure in the mobile market.
The reason why analysts are bullish about the prospects for RIM with these new devices is that, for the first time in years, non-BlackBerry and former BlackBerry users are joining the hype. This phenomenon could be simply because consumers like rooting for the underdog — the position RIM undoubtedly holds — or perhaps they’ve had enough with the Samsung/Apple duopoly and are genuinely looking forward to a refreshing yet “classic” new device and operating system.
As with any product launch, it will take months to gauge properly the impact RIM’s big reveal will have on the company’s prospects and the market in general. But the devices already have some qualities going for them. The most important is the thousands of applications available on the BlackBerry 10 operating system – a serious issue for RIM in the past as developers began writing apps for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android only. But the OS has already garnered the devotion of Cisco, SAP, Rovio, and ooVoo, which will prove vital for BB10’s competitive abilities across multimedia functions. ooVoo specifically brings one of the most essential ingredients from a third-party developer: voice and video integration with messaging and calling. Additionally, the Q10 features the BlackBerry’s beloved signature physical keyboard – a characteristic that kept users from straying to touchscreen-only smartphones when Apple launched the iPhone. The Z10 is touchscreen-only to appeal to all the rest.
Once the preferred smartphone selection for government agencies and enterprises, the BlackBerry has a lot of catching up to do (though it’s still the favorite device of U.S. President Barack Obama). It has taken a few big falls over the last several months, such as getting snubbed by industry power players like Marissa Mayer and rejected as the primary mobile communication tool of the U.S. government in favor of the iPhone in late 2012. The months after the launch of the Q10 and Z10 will be pivotal for RIM to get back on its feet.