Blackberry: Down but not out

2013-11-17 14:00

The Z30 is a bolder gamble for RIM, writes Toby Shapshak. And with it, BlackBerry could well be making a comeback

BlackBerry is in trouble, but the business and the service (and, by extension, the device) are two different propositions – and its ardent fans needn’t worry.

At the very least, a consortium of its most fanatic users will emerge should it prove to be in too much danger.

QNX, now renamed BlackBerry 10, is a great operating system. It’s still being used in nuclear power plants, on nuclear submarines and in cars.

The phones are really just the tip of the iceberg in the BlackBerry universe. The real data-intensive, clever stuff is done using a series of servers that deliver compressed data to the phones.

It’s a lot easier these days, but when BlackBerry was in its heyday during the early 2000s, mobile email was complicated.

BlackBerry allowed businesses to install servers that made sending email to its devices quick and easy.

Because it had a server on the other end of the internet connection and the phone in your hand, BlackBerry could compress data and make it easier to send over the still slow data networks.

It remains network efficient and the all-you-can-eat R60 a month package is still irresistible for teenagers and cash-conscious consumers.

One of the biggest dangers for mobile email is that the device (and its precious email contents) could be lost or stolen. But now, that can be wiped remotely.

Such security measures calm down even the most paranoid.

BlackBerry needs to build on that and provide a secure service for corporate businesses to manage their email on – a strategy Jim Balsillie, a former co-chief executive, was pursuing before he was ousted, including installing BlackBerry Messenger as a new kind of SMS for cellular networks.

But what about the operating system?

The newest update of BlackBerry 10 is superb.

There is one feature it introduces that is what any smartphone user always needed but didn’t know: you can respond to messages, emails, tweets and Facebook mentions from the little notification that pops up at the top of the screen, without leaving the current app you’re in.

And one day, we might find BlackBerry 10 in cars and other systems. The software upgrade, BlackBerry 10.2, is a vast improvement on an already good operating system.

And the phones aren’t half bad either.

The new Z30 is a good phone and so was the Z10, which launched earlier this year.

The industry widely believes that BlackBerry 10 was a year too late to save BlackBerry’s precipitous plunge in market share.

The Z10 may be a good phone, but it suffered in comparison with similar handsets, like the iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy models.

The Z30 is a bolder gamble, with a bigger screen, matching the size of the popular Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

It is more of a so-called phablet.

BlackBerry may be down, but it’s certainly not out.

» Shapshak is editor and publisher of Stuff magazine

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