The winner takes it all: how BlackBerry will benefit from being open

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A silhouette of Thorsten Heins reveals the answer to his companies problems

A silhouette of Thorsten Heins reveals the answer to his companies problems

So, as most will now know, BlackBerry 10 was announced today, alongside the BlackBerry Z10, a beautiful slab phone, and Q10, with a very similar build to the Bold 9900 line. Stupid names by-the-way, but at least they’re kinda-competing on hardware, with no Torch-sized failures in sight. But the OS is still lacking.

A number of problems seem to be fixable: the homescreen multitasker with no pinning of widgets, the weird notification centre, the lie of how many apps are available with Android apps running like glue alongside plenty of garbage apps and finally, the ecosystem lock-in.

Now, BlackBerry aren’t the first to lock the customer in. It only sounds logical on a board-meeting to trap the customers who take a chance on you. Apple does it, Android can do it (Google Play Music, Movies, TV and Magazines haven’t made a very plausible move to iOS) and Microsoft, for the time being, does it with Xbox Music. But I don’t think BlackBerry are in the position to sacrifice sales in the present for a bigger BlackBerry pie (sorry) in the future. I don’t think Microsoft can do this either, but at least they’ve got Office and Windows to lean back on. For BlackBerry, this is make or break territory, with CEO Heins already making comments on the possibility of OS changes if this fails.

And yet, one of the things that I can’t shake is the fact that BlackBerry (not RIM!) are missing the key ingredient: a platform-agnostic ecosystem.

BlackBerry still includes a number of, at the time of release, revolutionary features in its ecosystem, the most notable being BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM. But when the decline in interest began, so did the decline in the need for that key feature. If nobody is on BBM, why should you bother? BlackBerry, even today, have shown that this is the case with the use of WhatsApp as a key launch-app for BlackBerry 10. Yet BlackBerry still doesn’t get the message: People don’t want ecosystem lock-in.

With a BBM app on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, the whole idea of buying into the rich communication hubs of BlackBerry 10 seem much easier. I can tell you right now that, since nobody I know seems to be getting a Z10 or Q10, all possible interest in using that platform is gone. All desire to own a keyboard phone instead goes into an intensely impulsive HP Veer purchase, or just the normal route of sticking with iOS or Android, which serve me well.

BlackBerry don’t have a killer feature. But there is a killer app. There is a killer function.

People love apps, love games, but love communicating. Own that BlackBerry. Because you can. You just haven’t tried to yet.

Fix the notifications, open up BlackBerry Messenger and wait. I’m sure your numbers will grow.

Get the users on other platforms, then deliver an experience unmatchable on your own OS. One that simply outshines the competition. Or just lock your customers in. It’s your move RIM. Damn, I meant BlackBerry. Unusual name-change there too. A possible hint of a future where BlackBerry is the middle-man, and RIM just doesn’t cut it as a brand-name middle-man?

Image source: Official BlackBerry Flickr account

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