Behold the newly leaked photographs of what can only be a prototype for a future clamshell Blackberry smartphone. There’s no information about what’s under the hood with this Berry, code named “Kickstart”. While certainly RIM is praying this model will continue their lucky sales streak, there are several things on my wish list for this phone. Will RIM introduce improvements to the Kickstart or is this a page from Motorola’s failed playbook of “release the Razr in umpteen colors and variations”.
Is the Blackberry Kickstart a case of “too little too late” for RIM?
I’m having trouble remembering any PDA phones that were wildly successful when translated to a flip form factor. Palm had a whole slew of these that were introduced in what seemed like a one or two year streak of Palm hysteria. Anyone still use these? Seen anyone using one? Admittedly the Palm touch screen may not translate well to a flip form factor – but at one point someone thought it would because several manufacturers pushed out flip form factors.
And Palm isn’t alone in failing to capture a significant market share with a PDA flip phone. Here’s one example from Windows Mobile. I remember drooling over these photos when they first started leaking on the web. Anyone still using one of these? I think they came and went pretty quickly. The PDA experience just doesn’t seem to translate well to a flip form factor.
Here’s what the Blackbery Kickstart Will Need For Me To Buy:
1. A much improved web browser
The current RIM browser is pathetic. It’s slow, doesn’t render pages reliably. Competitors are laying out much improved web browsers yet RIM’s selling point is still push email (yawn – is there anybody who won’t have this in the next year?) costing $20 to $40 additional per month. Anyone else starting to feel like this model is a little outdated?
2. HTML Email.
Unless you use a third party software program, the Blackberry chokes on HTML email and renders only the text portion. Hey RIM – it’s 2008. HTML email should already be here – and not rumored. PS – I don’t want HTML email only in some packages that requires I subscribe to a BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server). In order to get me to buy you need to bundle reliable HTML right into your core OS.
3. Drop the BIS/BES required plan add-ons.
Browse by any discussion forum dedicated to Blackberry talk and at least three times per week someone will drop by asking why the Blackberry phone requires a separate data plan (known as BIS for Blackberry Internet Service or BES for Blackberry Enterprise Service). The BIS is aimed at non-corporate users who need push email and typically connect to their private mail via GMAIL, Hotmail or Yahoo. BES is the corporate version of the same software that users host at their site and connect to either MS Exchange or Lotus Notes for real time delivery of emails.
People have made Blackberry’s work without the required plan – but the push email doesn’t work the same way. And without push email, exactly what is RIM’s claim to fame again?
I do not believe RIM/Blackberry can continue their requirement for expensive plan add-ons in order for their devices to work. My old Sprint Mogul received push email via Exchange and I didn’t pay a penny in extra cell fees for the privilege. Users won’t remain stupid forever about these required plans (aka – pure profit for RIM).
4. Improved reliability of the RIM network – better yet eliminate the need for a RIM network.
Users of the RIM Blackberry devices always have an extra point of failure. All of their emails must travel from the source email service to RIM’s servers then out to the carrier providing cellular data coverage. Within the last year un-disclosed data outages have sent subscribers scurrying to check with other users about the status of the service.
RIM have a nasty habit of ignoring the need to publicly disclose service interruptions until a critical mass of people point out that they haven’t received emails for a period of time. There is no easily accessible way to view the RIM network status. Forcing email through an additional step before it reaches your device seems quaint. RIM either needs to make a compelling argument as to WHY this extra point of failure is needed – or they should develop a way to eliminate the extra step.
5. Wireless sync of email, contacts, calendar and tasks – without an additional plan add-on.
Windows Mobile (and soon the iPhone) support wireless real time synchronization of my contacts, calendar, tasks and email. If I use another platform I don’t pay for any extra plan (beyond that which my cellular company requires for data access). I can’t think of any reason that Blackberry will be able to continue demanding this tax.
Sure, you can argue that corporations will pay for secure delivery of data. But when this is already freely available via Microsoft Exchange, it’s going to be an increasingly harder argument to successfully make. So far corporations are playing along because they’ve made an investment in the BES infrastructure. As this hardware comes up for refresh and upgrade – decisions will be made about continuing on with Blackberry (and the extra plan costs) or adopting ann equally reliable solution with no monthly per user fee.
6. Encourage third party development efforts.
When the iPhone fully opens to third party apps, there will be a rush for developers to adapt applications for the device. The loud sucking sound will be developers abandoning projects that they started or marketed for Palm and RIM platforms.
RIM needs to be focussed on more and better resources for their development partners. When cool third party applications are only available for one platform, users will start to gravitate toward the cool apps and naturally the platform that they’re available for.
The Blackberry platform is at a turning point. Up until the iPhone release (and to some extent the advent of Microsoft Exchange push email), their business model was largely unchallenged. Now as push email becomes commonplace, and wireless synchronization is achieved for free via Google mobile apps, they need to respond with more improvements to the Blackberry platform or face a gradual decline in subscribers.
Just my .02.