Blackberry’s stock, although slightly down today, has been soaring lately. Analysts and reviewers who have seen and played with devices have mostly agreed that the new QNX based operating system is a solid offering. They focus on the adaptive keyboard, the “peak and flow” nature of the user interface, and recently the over 70,000 apps that launched with the Z10. For business and corporate users this may all be fine and dandy, but is this enough for consumers to embrace RIM as the third player in this highly competitive mobile market? For a mobile phone I believe they have a competitive story, however they’re a bit muddled on what happens outside of their beloved devices.
Apps are Part of the Story
Huge kudos to the efforts that Blackberry did to build up its 70,000 strong apps launch. Good news it that some of the big name applications such as Amazon Kindle, and Skype, as well as a plethora of games but what appears to be missing is their content story in terms of movies and music. While Blackberry was busy building up their OS, hardware and app story, they appeared to have missed having your movies and music accessible to you where ever you go.
The Blackberry Battle for the Living Room
Blackberry has an uphill battle for your entertainment dollars. Like it or not, people do not live on their mobile devices and tablets. We have big TVs, radios, computers, laptops and gaming consoles – stuff where we love to have our media on. The company’s competitors all have an answer for the using content while at home and not using their mobile devices which is absence from RIM’s strategy so far:
- Apple has AppleTV, Airplay, laptops, desktops and thousands of hardware partners to access music, books and movies outside of iPads, iPhones and iPods.
- Microsoft has it’s Windows 8 OS on desktops, laptops XBox 360 gaming consoles, XBox Live, Windows Phone, Windows
- Amazon has their Kindle devices, music store, their own version of the Android App Store, Cloud Player and Instant Video.
- Google as their search service, Google Product services such as GMail and Docs, Google Play (their app store), and a plethora of devices using Android.
All of these competitors allow your media to be accessible in multiple locations. Access your favorite movies and music on your computer/laptop, streaming devices, and hundreds of accessories. Sure Blackberry has Amazon and Kobo as partners for books but that’s all it’s getting. Millions of people have Netflix and it wasn’t even mentioned at launch whether that was going to be supported (although there are hints that it is coming), but that service is on hundreds of devices and built-in to televisions. So if it’s a chore to view my content on the new Blackberry or access my purchased content while I’m not on the device, that’s is a problem.
Blackberry does have a partial media content story through it partnership with 7Digital. I’ve played around it on my Playbook and it’s not a bad service and it certainly has plenty of content. My biggest complaint with it is that I couldn’t find a good way of playing the tracks and movies I purchased on my computer or television. There was nothing on their website telling me what user id/password I should be using to access the 7Digital store on the web i.e. you purchased your music tracks using your Blackberry ID, but what if I want to access them online via their website – do I create another account and try to link them together? It’s just plain messy and I couldn’t be bothered to figure it out. As someone who loves to play with tech couldn’t be bothered to try to figure it out, what’s the average joe going to do? The last thing I want is music that is stuck on my phone or tablet. Sure I could use the DLNA to stream content or the HDMI port to play it on a TV, but that still means my content is trapped on a device. What Apple and Google did while Blackberry was busy was beefed up their cloud services to allow your content to be everywhere you go regardless if you’re on their mobile devices or not! Even Microsoft through Windows 8 I can buy a movie and play it through my XBox or phone without messy cables or connect my device up to a TV.
There’s still a chance!
I’m willing to be wrong. To date no one has really played with the current 7Digital service, but if it’s similar to what is currently offered for the Playbook, it’s going to be a dismal failure. Blackberry needs to improve their offering and make it competitive; purchased content need ubiquitous access without cables, copying files and trying to stream it from their devices. The roadblock though is that the company is focused only on mobile devices. It really doesn’t have a cloud or a desktop strategy. It doesn’t have gaming console, nor something embedded within an Operating system. This will be difficult challenge, but it’s one that they’re going to have to overcome if they hope to compete against Apple, Google and even Microsoft.