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Can BlackBerry 10 challenge Google and Apple?
Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), having changed its name to BlackBerry, has finally unveiled its latest BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system to compete with Apple’s iOS 6 and Google’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Notably, BlackBerry 10 aligns BlackBerrry’s devices much more closely with high end Android mobile phones and Apple’s latest offering, the hugely popular iPhone 5, in terms of software capabilities. However, time will tell if Blackberry is able to make up the ground which it has lost to its rivals over the past few years.
As noted by the MarketLine Case Study BlackBerry: Losing the Battle Against Apple and Google (published January, 2012), BlackBerry’s share of the smartphone market has been declining since the introduction of the Apple iPhone and Google’s Android iOS in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
A key differential between BlackBerry and its rivals in the past has been the lack of third party app support for the BlackBerry operating system. In fact, the number of apps available on the Google Play store, which serves Android smartphones, is currently estimated at around 800,000. Furthermore, in September 2012, Apple revealed that its own App Store had 700,000 apps available for download.
Following its announcement on January 30, 2013, BlackBerry 10 has launched with just 70,000 available apps in its BlackBerry World app marketplace: less than 10% of the number available on rival platforms. This is set to be a key area that will define BlackBerry’s success with its latest attempt at recapturing some of its lost market share within the mobile devices industry: the company’s success in attracting high caliber developers will be crucial to its ongoing viability as a business. This is an area where Microsoft also has some catching up to do with its Windows Phone 8 activities.
Another factor that will make or break BlackBerry’s challenge to Apple and Google is pricing. Unfortunately, the pricing of BlackBerry’s 10’s flagship product, the Z10, is higher than that of a typical Android phone. In fact, Bloomberg have quoted Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, in noting that the Z10 “doesn’t compare favorably with Android devices” on price.
To compound this, Google’s flagship Android smartphone, the LG manufactured Nexus 4, has returned to Google’s Play Store, and is currently available unlocked (i.e. free of a carrier contract) for a $299 starting price, following months of stock shortages and media scrutiny. Perhaps more interestingly, however, is the fact that stock was apparently replenished on 29 January, one day before the reveal of Blackberry 10. Whether or not this was a conscious move by Google, the resurgence of availability of its flagship Android handset has surely taken some of the wind out of BlackBerry 10’s sails.
Going forward, Blackberry will face many challenges in trying to reassert itself as a key player within the smartphone market. Although pricing, at launch, may see BlackBerry 10 fall out of favor with more frugal consumers, future price drops may entice buyers away from Android and iOS. If BlackBerry is able to bolster app development for its system, thus creating an attractive digital ecosystem for prospective consumers to migrate to, BlackBerry may still have some fight left.