Will BlackBerry 10 Be Another PlayBook?

Published on December 10, 2012
by John Paczkowski

If you want to know how Research In Motion’s BlackBerry 10 platform is going to fare at market, looking over the performance of the company’s PlayBook tablet is likely a good idea.

As encouraging as it might be to hear brokerages giving BB10 a one-in-three chance of success and to read that the OS has been positively received by carriers, there are a handful of issues that belie such tentative optimism. And to some extent they’re similar to those that hamstrung RIM’s foray into the tablet market. In fact, some would say they’re identical.

“We saw similar optimism around the PlayBook ahead of its launch and we think recent sentiment about BB10 performance in the market is again too optimistic,” said Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair, who describes recent enthusiasm for the operating system’s prospects as something of a stretch. “We don’t see any scenario where the new device could make a meaningful dent in the consumer or enterprise market next year.”

What’s there to stop it? The same things that undermined PlayBook. Strong competition from more established rivals, and consumers that have had more than enough time to develop strong affinities for their platforms.

RIM’s task with BlackBerry 10 is to create a mobile platform that’s as compelling as iOS and Android, just as its task with PlayBook was to create a tablet that matched or surpassed the iPad. That’s a tall order, and one that RIM seems ill-equipped to fill. Clearly, it didn’t manage it with PlayBook. Can it pull it off with BB10?

It would be quite a feat if it did, and fascinating to watch. But it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult.

“RIM will be offering an entirely new OS, a brand new UI and experience to its user base,” said Blair. “And when compared to the other … major players in the smartphone market next year, we don’t believe that BB10 will offer anything more than the existing options. In fact, we expect most reviews of BB10 to confirm that it offers less. … And unless the price points are substantially lower than existing offerings, it will be a very tough sell once it’s on the shelves.”

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