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Can new smartphones rekindle the BlackBerry fire?

Matt Hamblen | Jan. 28, 2013
RIM hopes to translate positive pre-launch buzz into sales of its Z10 and X10 smartphones on January 30.

In an interview, Mullany said the prerelease Z10 touchscreen model that developers have been testing offers "incredible performance for the browser inside -- it will be a market leader for HTML5."

RIM also said it has seen heavy developer interest in building apps for BlackBerry 10, with 15,000 apps published in the BlackBerry World app store in two days.

Previous browsers in BlackBerry smartphones have been a sore spot for RIM, and Mullany remarked that the BlackBerry Torch smartphone, which was released two years ago was a disappointment. "When we got the Torch," he recalled, "we scratched our heads and said, 'Are they serious?'"

But Mullany also said that RIM has not "irreparably harmed itself," because mobile consumers "have very short memories." He said the Z10 has impressive speeds for scrolling content and responds quickly to touches.

Mullany said he's not privy to RIM's plans to market the Z10 or X10, but he noted that RIM has faced difficulties in the past in trying to attract consumers to BlackBerry devices after years of serving the needs of working professionals and enterprise IT shops.

In recent years, RIM relied on rock star Bono and the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas to promote the BlackBerry brand among consumers. But even stellar marketing could not correct a problematic product like the Torch.

"I feel this [Z10] is a very robust consumer device," Mullany said. "It's not a business-only device for sure. It will do well in the consumer and prosumer market."

Mullany said he foresees the user interface of the Z10 working well with professional sports apps favored by the male professionals who make up an important demographic for the BlackBerry. Major League Baseball said this week that it plans to bring its At Bat app to the BlackBerry 10 phones for the start of the 2013 season.

"This is a market-leading device that's as fast as iOS and with more features," Mullany said. "RIM's done a fantastic job of GPU [graphics processing unit] integration. On the HTML5 side, it's a great deployment platform for apps. "

Acceptance of the new BlackBerry 10 phones by consumers is hard to predict, but some enterprise users have come forward. Oliver Bussmann, CIO at business software maker SAP, said in an interview at the International CES trade show earlier this month that he had seen prerelease versions of the X10 qwerty phones. He said the phones will be appreciated by many of the 16,000 BlackBerry users at SAP who like a physical keyboard.

"SAP will continue to offer its employees choice via corporate-owned and personal devices across Android, iOS and BlackBerry platforms and that will include BB 10," Bussmann said via email. "We will test the BB 10 devices and make them available for internal usage soon."


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