BlackBerry Messenger and BBM Social
BlackBerry owners love RIM's proprietary BlackBerry Messenger IM app that lets any and all RIM smartphone users shoot messages back and forth without incurring text message charges from wireless carriers. Though many similar cross-platform IM apps with comparable features exist, none have gained as large and as loyal a user base as BBM.
RIM knows that BBM is one the BlackBerry platform's strengths and a valuable competitive advantage. It even launched a widespread advertising campaign based entirely on BBM and its various users around the globe. The company also recently released some cool new developer tools and an associated "BBM Social" API that lets software makers integrate their applications with BBM.
Very few applications with this BBM social integration are available at this point. Foursquare recently released a test build of its location-based social networking app with BBM integration. But I see huge promise in the idea if RIM can convince enough developers that it will be worth the time and effort to build BBM Social features into their apps.
As such, BBM Social has the potential to make BBM even more attractive to BlackBerry users, while also making the app a stronger, and that could give it a more competitive advantage. BBM Social could even drum up some much needed enthusiasm around BlackBerry app development, which would certainly be a good thing for RIM, BlackBerry and its customers.
Future is bright for BlackBerry PlayBook tablet
Okay, so RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook launch wasn't exactly a study in how to successfully market and release a brand new, potentially groundbreaking product. More specifically, RIM basically launched an unfinished table, after spending lots of time and bundles of cash hyping the PlayBook up to the masses.
Not surprisingly, the tablet was blasted by many influential reviewers, many of whom couldn't seem to stop comparing the PlayBook to Apple's hugely popular iPad. Yet I believe the BlackBerry PlayBook has a ton of potential. And most of the pieces of the puzzle are there, they're just not in place yet.
RIM is expected to release native email and personal information management apps any day now, which will should make the tablet more attractive to non-BlackBerry smartphone users, who have heretofore been unable to access web mail via PlayBook without launching a browser first. And the Android App Player for PlayBook, which will allow BlackBerry tablet users to run compatible Android applications, should also be extremely well received.
When all of these pieces come together, the BlackBerry PlayBook could come out looking rather impressive, and those early negative reviews may prove insignificant.
Seven new handhelds in 2011, promise of QNX-Based BlackBerrys
RIM has been slow to release new BlackBerry handhelds during the past year, but that's all about to change. The company plans to release at least seven brand new smartphones before the end of 2011, according to its co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, though only one of those devices, the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 has been officially announced.
Thanks to a variety of leaked confidential materials, it's known that RIM also plans to release a revamped version of it BlackBerry Torch 9800 device, the Torch 9810, and the BlackBerry "Touch" 9850/9860, a new Storm-like device with no physical keyboard, along with a couple of updated BlackBerry Curve devices.
All seven new devices will presumably run RIM's latest mobile OS, BlackBerry 7. And though BlackBerry 7 honestly doesn't seem all that different from BlackBerry 6, it does pack some cool new features including support for Near Field Communications technology, more powerful search capabilities and improved web browsing, among other things.
While BlackBerry 7 won't likely draw many smartphone users away from Android devices or their iPhones, it should help to retain current BlackBerry users, since it's certainly a step up from the BlackBerry 6 OS.
And BlackBerry 7 is really just a building block toward the next major BlackBerry mobile OS, which will be based on a software foundation from QNX Systems. The BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet OS was similarly built on QNX code and thanks to some help from another recent RIM acquisition, The Astonishing Tribe, the BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet OS is a much more functional, modern and visually appealing OS than the aging, bland BlackBerry smartphone OS.
The impressive BlackBerry Tablet OS bodes well for the upcoming, QNX-based BlackBerry smartphone OS. And a more modern BlackBerry handheld OS with a better overall user experience should certainly catch they eyes of gadget geeks and help RIM compete with its major rivals in the smartphone space.
BlackBerry data compression
BlackBerry smartphones employ DataSmart technology to compress data sent back and forth between wireless networks and RIM handhelds. DataSmart tech, according to RIM, "works a lot like zipping large files on your computer. When you use data on a BlackBerry smartphone, it's almost as if the data is zipped up before it's sent or received so it's smaller and uses up less of your data plan."
Most average smartphone users couldn't care less what goes on behind the scenes, as long as their devices work when they need them. But DataSmart technology can actually save BlackBerry users money. And that ought to grab some attention, especially in a time when many unlimited smartphone data plans are being phased out and mobile data use in general is rapidly getting more and more expensive.
In fact, a RIM-sponsored study by research firm Rysavy Research recently found that BlackBerry users can get two times more web browsing, four times more email and two times more social networking, than users with "other leading smartphones."
As more and more individuals and businesses start to feel the effects of cellular data price hikes, the BlackBerry platform, with its DataSmart tech, should become more attractive.
Bottom line: RIM is, with good reason, struggling right now, but I believe the company can pull itself back up by its metaphorical bootstrap. RIM didn't become one of the world's largest smartphone makers overnight. And similarly, it's foolish to think the company will collapse just because it had a couple of rough years struggling with new challenges.
RIM still has some fight left in, and I still have faith in RIM.