BB10, Z10 and Q10: why they won't save BlackBerry

Opinion The now RIM-less BlackBerry has unveiled a strong OS with some impressive hardware to go with it, but it's all too little, and way too late.

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins unveiled the Z10 and Q10 BlackBerrys at an event in New York today.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

BlackBerry, BlackBerry, BlackBerry — that's probably all your tech news feed has been pushing at you all day. BB10, the Q10, the Z10: BlackBerry has come in swinging with the hopes that when the final bell rings, it'll still be standing, rather than flat on the canvas.

Sadly, it is almost definitely a swing and miss.

If you read the coverage, the praise for both hardware and software has been constantly tempered by one refrain: this is great for a BlackBerry. It's somewhere between condescending and damning with faint praise — BlackBerry gets a pat on the back for doing its gosh-darn hardest and not sucking.

One attendee at the launch in New York even offered this high praise of the Z10: "It's easy to forget that you're using a BlackBerry".

Plenty of phone operating systems haven't sucked. The Nokia N9 was a combination of breath-taking hardware and clean, concise and above all eminently usable OS in the form of MeeGo. Windows Phone is also a good OS and it has still failed to take any real market share away from Android and Apple since its 2010 debut.

One of the big issues is that BlackBerry isn't offering anything real that can't be found on other platforms. In the past couple of years, nobody has looked down at their iPhone and thought "this just doesn't do what my BlackBerry did". Same for Android. BlackBerry's core concept that it was the phone for business people has fallen by the wayside — there's just no longer that requirement to have a split between a work phone and a personal phone.

There's no real "killer app" from any of BlackBerry's offerings. Our US colleague Jessica Dolcourt said of BB10 that "happy Android and iOS users won't find a reason to switch" — and at this late stage in the game, switching is what had to happen for BlackBerry to climb back up the charts and give Apple and Android cause to get nervous.

There are two key points that seem to best illustrate what BlackBerry has done wrong. One is the fact that the Q10 — the phone with the physical keyboard — is launching after the full touchscreen Z10.

BlackBerry needed to take a leaf from its own marketing collateral and "be bold" in this instance. A keyboard phone was the closest thing BlackBerry had to that aforementioned "killer app" — a genuine point of difference from every single other phone around today. More than that, it would have sent a clear signal back to old users that this was a true BlackBerry. That underneath the new OS and shiny hardware was the heart and soul that once made BlackBerry the cult device it was.

The other is apps. Much has been made of the 70,000 apps that will be available at launch. It's not enough. Not compared to Google Play and the iTunes App Store. And where are the incentives to get devs building and creating for a third platform? If they're barely willing to do it with Windows despite all of that Microsoft money, why will they do it for BlackBerry?

In fact, they're barely even doing it for BlackBerry now — it's been hardly mentioned in all the hoopla, but 40 per cent of those 70,000 apps are just Android apps with a different hat on. They're not native for BB10.

As we said yesterday, a phone ecosystem lives and dies on its apps these days, and this seems to put BlackBerry in intensive care already.

If it were 2010 or even 2011, then we might be having a different conversation. But it's not and we aren't. BlackBerry will get some solid buzz from this, and curious customers will give the new handsets a little love, but barring an absolute left-field miracle, it'll be a blip for the company.

At the end of the day, BlackBerry can hold its head up and say that it went down swinging, that it went down with a bang, not a whimper — but, sadly, it's still definitely going down.

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Latest comments (Add your comment)

Remember one thing about the apps: there are 70'000 at launch, not 70'000 that's-all-folks, it's a brand new OS, as opposed to iOS and Android, which have been around for a while, so how you expect the amount of apps to compete less than a month after launch? Also: developing and porting apps for/to BB10 is very easy from what I've been reading, which means that the rate at which new apps are introduced to the OS should be high (it'll be easier to see that over the next three months). People who just immediately shoot down a new OS because it doesn't have a million and one apps like those that've been around for years are a disgrace to be honest. And just to answer Will1505's question as to why they didn't go over to Android: it's so that they can tweak the OS to give their users the best experience they can offer. How long can you go on your Android before the battery dies? Does Google offer an OS upgrade to add a tonne of battery optimisations?
Posted by whatshisface_xx
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I was in the UK when this launched, and am happy to come back to Australia with this device ahead of everyone else. I was hard pressed to get mine, and the store I did, there was only one more available, and it was only 4 hours after launch.This is seriously in a whole new league to iPhone, with the iPhone looking like an archaic relic. Also, I know many that complained about other platforms not being able to do what their old BBs could do. Email attachment was a big issue for me on iPhone. I never cracked a BlackBerry screen, and the battery always lasted longer than 4 hours. Wish the same could be said for iPhone, which it can't be.A lot of the UK buyers for the Z10 were are iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 owners, so not sure what you are on about that. I have all of the iOS apps I wanted on here, only waiting on WhatsApp and Skype, which will be released before its launch in Australia, so no problem there. There are many things that BB10 can do that other platforms can't.Also, for me this has great low light quality for pictures, and I use a lot of that for work and in communication. Blackberry is not dead. This is the phone to beat in 2013.
Posted by LochranD
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BB10 will not slaughter Android/iOS market share in 2013. But it does not need to. It needs to give the Blackberry faithful a reason to transfer over and take a few individuals from Android - who may be unhappy with update fragmentation and iOS - who may just be bored with the system or annoyed at the recent problems iOS 6 has had with battery and data leakage (yep, that's me). They just need enough of a user base to get some decent cashflow going, enough to convince the money men that this could be worth a shot, and then use 2014 for a more full on attack. The success of BB 10 will not be determined over 90 days, but more like around 500 days. It will be tough, but certainly not a lost cause.
Posted by BorysP
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I still don't understand why blackberry are being so stubborn about staying with its own OS. I said it last year and still stand by it, the only way they could have made this work was have an overlay that looks exactly like what they brought out, but with android as the OS.
I like blackberry, I really do but they are killing themselves.
Posted by Will1505
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They have already changed their OS to QNX, one of the most powerful OS based on UNIX... I am an IOS user for 3 months now using iphone 5 after 2 years of blackberry 9700. I can't image the iphone popularity with this killer reasons like
- "Battery life" that forces you to stop using any application fearing the battery to die in the middle of the day ...otherwise blackberry have invented a way to optimize transmission which consumes 100 times the reception in their new bb10
- "GMAIL" has a very serious problem with IOS, you can't set it as push mail unless you set it up using exchange, and this path leads to a major problem searching your emails, I never had a problem with BB mail since BB5
- IOS IS LOCKED, you can't access file manager, upload your CV or any other document ...even you can't easily copy PDFs and docs unless using dropbox or boring itunes
Posted by BishoyH
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