BlackBerry, formerly RIM, is set to launch its first BlackBerry 10 (BB10) smartphone in India later this month. India is one of the few countries where the BlackBerry Z10 is being launched in the first wave, even before the US where it is expected to be launched sometime in March. This is the first major product launch by BlackBerry in almost two years and in a way the company’s betting its future on it. I believe that BlackBerry 10 has a better chance of succeeding in India than Windows Phone, purely in terms of sales volumes. Read on to find out why.
The biggest advantage in BlackBerry’s favor right now is its existing subscriber base. Microsoft did not really have any significant user base that would “upgrade” from an older platform to a new one. BlackBerry, on the other hand, as a relatively massive installed base in India, who have been eagerly waiting for an upgrade. In fact, the Z10 fits in perfectly in BlackBerry’s scheme of things as the smartphone vendor did not launch any high-end smartphone in 2012 and most users who are still using their Bold 9900 and its variants will be the first to line up for the Z10. These are loyal users, who have preferred to stay with an ageing platform even when there are tempting alternatives from Apple and Samsung, among others.
For Microsoft, it will always be a hard-sell to make users shift from other platforms to Windows Phone – their best bets being feature phone and Symbian users. Microsoft did not do a great job by alienating its early adopters by keeping them in the dark that their recently bought smartphones won’t get updated to the latest version of the operating system. The way Nokia had to cut prices of its Lumia series of smartphones didn’t help build consumer confidence either.
Many BlackBerry users who have moved to other platforms also continue to use their BlackBerry, if for nothing else then BBM and email. Many of these users might also give BB10 a chance and pick up the Z10. Windows Phone lacks any such sticky feature. Even if BB10 does not really have the same push email experience as the older platform, it offers many features that its users have been asking for – especially a touchscreen, a better browser and a new user interface. By doing away with Blackberry-specific data and BBM plans, the company has taken away yet another hassle for many users, who will now be able to use a regular data plan for complete Internet, email and BBM access.
This is not to say that BlackBerry is out of the rough patch it found itself in two years ago. This is just the beginning and the Z10 will buy the company just about enough time to tweak the platform a bit more and improve it on an ongoing basis rather than waiting for an annual update.
I believe it will keep launching a new product every couple of months that would provide a different/better experience based on the learnings from the Z10 and later the Q10. The important thing here is to ensure that BlackBerry provides timely updates to its early adopters as it improves the whole BB10 experience. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will also see BB10 smartphones in the mid-range segment, which could further drive adoption.
However, the success of BlackBerry would eventually depend on the quality of hardware it offers as well as improvements in the platform itself. Initial reviews have shown that BB10 offers a unique user interface but might not be the most intuitive one at the moment. BlackBerry needs to fix it and do it fast. It is all a matter of taking calculated yet swift steps and putting the consumer first.