Marketplace Scratch Pad

Wither Blackberry?

Scott Jagow Dec 23, 2009

For the second time in a week, Blackberry users have experienced a significant outage. This time, they lost all contact with humanity. Some in The Blackberry Nation are outraged, which makes one wonder if this time next year, they’ll be asking Santa for a new smart phone.

Venture capitalist blogger Fred Wilson is a Blackberry lover, but he recently got another phone that he’s promised not to blog about (I’m thinking it might be Google’s Nexus One):

The point of all of this is the Blackberry approach to providing services via the carrier networks is not ideal. They are playing carrier, software provider, and hardware provider all in one. That’s not good.

Readers of this blog know how much I love my Blackberry, but this new phone I can’t blog about is very nice and can take a plain vanilla GSM sim card with data services on it. I started thinking a bit harder about that configuration last night.

Paul Kedrosky diagnoses the problem:

It’s not that Blackberry network’s original engineering decision was wrong. It was perfect for a world of limited mobile bandwidth, smart-ish networks, and dumb-ish devices. The trouble is, of course, that’s no longer the current world. Instead we have more mobile bandwidth, dumb-ish networks and smart-ish devices. Pretty much the reverse of what was originally the case. The Blackberry overlay now looks misplaced: a single point of failure, a source of complexity and a barrier to application development on the platform.

Wired has this take:

… concerns over the BlackBerry’s recent failures may be “overblown,” writes Shaw Wu, an analyst with brokerage firm Kaufman Bros in a research note to his clients.

“RIM’s fundamental advantages including its push network technology and ownership of core hardware and software is underestimated,” says Wu. “Our long-standing view is that Apple remains RIM’s only true competitor, but we believe there is plenty of room for both to succeed.”

Blackberry has no real competition in the business market. Yet. It’ll be interesting to see how the Google phone fits in the market and whether someone will mount a serious challenge to the Blackberry’s grip on business communication. More outages, and rest assured, someone will.

More tonight on Marketplace.

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