Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

As BlackBerry 10 Launches, a Look at the Big Tech Shifts That Made It (And Those That Didn’t)

Big breaks with the past can be good for technology companies.

Apple, for example, has broken the mold several times. On the chip side, it has transitioned twice, going from 68000 to PowerPC and then to Intel. On the software side, it went from classic Mac OS to OS X, and arguably is in the midst of a shift to iOS, assuming the iPad really is the computer of the future.


Microsoft’s shifts have been more subtle, but include the shift to Windows Phone 7 from Windows Mobile, as well as the recent move with Windows 8 to support ARM-based chips and a new type of app.

So there is some reason for optimism as Research In Motion launches a new crop of BlackBerrys on Wednesday that are really nothing like the BlackBerrys of years past.

But new architectures are not always winners. IBM’s OS/2 and Palm’s webOS come to mind as examples of next-generation operating systems that died on the vine.

It is certainly easier to do a big shift when you are on top, or at least not struggling, but RIM doesn’t have that luxury.

The arrival of BlackBerry 10 comes after more than a year of delays, and not a moment too soon for the troubled handset maker, which has seen its smartphone market share plummet from 16 percent in 2010 to less than 5 percent for 2012.

The good news is that while the mobile industry moved considerably ahead as Research In Motion has struggled, no single company has really managed to duplicate BlackBerry’s core strengths in security and manageability.

Instead, most consumers have traded apps and fast Web browsing for the excellent keyboard and rock-solid email, while businesses have opted for the cost savings and convenience of letting consumers bring their own devices into the workplace.

Research In Motion has some of the key components in place. For example, all four major U.S. carriers (and plenty of global ones, as well) say they will carry the new crop of BlackBerrys. Their support is critical, but what remains to be seen is just how hard they will push the devices vis-a-vis Android, iPhone and even Windows Phones.

Support from developers will also be key. RIM has announced some big-name apps and services that will be there at launch, including Facebook and LinkedIn, along with the NHL and Major League Baseball. But the list of must-have apps has become a long one that includes everything from Twitter, Spotify and Netflix to games such as Angry Birds and Words With Friends. And while many people still only use a handful of apps, that handful varies widely from one person to the next and often includes a smaller program tied to their workplace, hobbies or community.

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