I had some time to play with the BlackBerry Storm last week, and I’m surprised how much I disliked it. I feel it was a complete misstep on the part of RIM, and is indicative of the problems of handset manufacturers short-sighted thinking as they compete with the iPhone.
Competing with the iPhone is like competing with CSI
CSI is one of the top broadcast TV shows every week. Millions of people tune in to watch a fairly vapid crime drama show with cool lighting effects and gruesome murder scenes. Many millions of people. So if you are a clever TV exec, and you want to compete in the same timeslot, do you (a) create an equally vapid crime drama show with more cool lighting and gruesomer murders, (b) create a completely different show, such as a romance, comedy, reality, hospital, etc, or (c) offer alternating reruns of Matlock and Baywatch? As tempting as (c) might be, the answer is (b) – they call it cross- or counter-programming.
The World’s First Touchscreen Blackberry?
This is the main marketing campaign around the product (don’t ask me why). The commercials (much like the gPhone commercials) are blatant ripoffs of the iPhone commercials, and they shouldn’t be. This is the core problem of the whole device – it’s not an iPhone, and more to the point it shouldn’t be an iPhone. Instead of building a great next-gen BlackBerry (like they did with the Curve, Pearl, Bold), they made a less functional product by trying to duplicate the core strengths of another product. In other words, they are airing CSI: Indianapolis when they should be showing Reality Stars Paintball on Ice.
All CrackBerries need a keyboard
The BlackBerry is beloved because… it integrates perfectly into Exchange/Outlook/Corporate email environments and it is a phenomenal mobile email device. IT administrators love it as do the end-user who can easily write emails while attending meetings, at family events, on the tarmac, dinner parties, and even while driving. The product experience is heavily tied into the keyboard, one could even consider it the signature piece of the device. A BlackBerry without a keyboard can’t possibly (and, to the point, doesn’t) replicate the same “BlackBerry Experience”.
The Missed Opportunity
The “correct” touchscreen BlackBerry would have a physical keyboard as well. Seems like an obvious, yet somehow missed move by the company. Touchscreen keyboards can’t replace the physical one, and just dabbling touch-UI features onto the rest of the BlackBerry experience makes for a wholly unsatisfactory device. Instead, the company should’ve kept the form factor of the present-day device, but made the screen touch-enabled. Best of both worlds, satisfies the email-craving workaholic as well as the fun-having gadget owner.
Instead, the BlackBerry Storm might just be the mullet of phones. It’s probably the best “other” touchscreen phone on the market (so far), but that’s just not good enough. There are plenty of ways to compete with the iPhone, and I’m dissappointed at the lack of originality and creative thinking displayed by other cell phone manufacturers. Something tells me the best competition will come out of left field, the way Asus first innovated with their eeePC. I hope the clever product people at RIM who’s ideas got shot down to make the Storm can bring out the concepts they really wanted to ship (and I’m just going out on a limb with that – despite being Canadian I have no special insight into their product roadmap).
I don’t think RIM is trying to sell Storms to current Curve owners and hardcore corporate emailers but rather to people who like the cool factor of a touchscreen phone, and also send emails. Blackberry is one of the most respected names in phones right now and I think Verizon was trying to capitalize on that while also appealling to people who really really want an iPhone but don’t want to go to AT&T. If the Storm was replacing the Curve, that would be a blunder, but having another batter in the line-up never hurts. When compared to the iPhone, nothing measures up, but because the iPhone and the Storm are on different networks, you can’t really compare them unless you are willing to switch carriers.
I agree with the core of your argument that it tries to be an iPhone…but I actually think thats the point.
What is your ideal touch phone?
1. The Storm addresses the North American CDMA market not addressed by the G1 or iPhone.
2. Not all BlackBerry users need a real keyboard as much as you stated. Some users might quite willing trade a real keyboard for a much bigger screen for web browsing and viewing media. The Storm is their BlackBerry.
3. With BlackBerry there is choice. Full keyboard, SureType, or touch screen? Small, medium or large? CDMA, HSPA, EDGE, or iDEN? Flip? The only thing clear from your article is that apparently, the market still wants more choices. Can there ever be one device that will equally satisfy all users? Most likely not.
> Instead, the company should’ve kept the form factor of the present-day device, but made the screen touch-enabled.
Treos have combined a hard keyboard with a touchscreen since the early 2000s, and the UI advantages of a touchscreen on a mobile are one of the key reasons I stick with my ever-lagging Treo instead of moving to BB. Too bad Palm seems utterly bent on remaining a dysfunctional wreck; it would be nice to see RIM innovate against some real competition.
People keep asking me why I didn’t get the Storm (I bought the Bold and love it). My answer is, if I wanted a touchscreen phone, I would buy an iPhone.