Saturday, 15 August 2015

Why BlackBerry must make an Android phone.

Rumour has it that the next device BlackBerry will release will be Android, and if the recently leaked image is legitimate then there is more to this rumour than I would like.

The leaked image shows a patented BlackBerry touch keyboard above a typical Android navigation pane/back button which is forcibly at the bottom of the screen... This differs from typical BlackBerry 10 operating system phones where the navigation sits above the keyboard. BlackBerry 10 phones de-emphasizes navigation because the Operating System encourages "flow" by being a gesture based O.S.

Anyone who has the privilege to experience a diverse set of operating systems can tell you - native apps on BlackBerry 10 kick up productivity, are snappier than any other O.S., and let you multitask almost irresponsibly well for a mobile device. Last night for example I attached a keyboard and mouse and completely replaced my laptop to get some office work done.

As a technology adoptor (no... not an early adoptor) I tend to be both frugal and sensitive to the best of the best... and only ignorance can deny that BlackBerry's multi billion dollar investment produced a top of the class operating system.

However after four years of BlackBerry 10 being in market with less than one percent of the market share, Google's continued heavy investment in Android has given us a version of their operating system that has almost all the features of BlackBerry, can run on a more diverse set of devices, and is lightweight (and nearly as battery efficient)

But the real dagger is "Apps"... not quantity as was touted years ago, but more specifically Google's departure from the mantra, "do no evil" as they made Android closed source and restrict developers to only consume Google Play services on said closed source editions of the operating system.

For example, I am using an Android app on my BlackBerry to write this blog post. And even though BlackBerry runs android apps unusually well - there is a limited set of Android apps available to me because of the lack of "Google Play Services"... on top of that, the whole "flow" that BlackBerry 10 offers is greatly diminished when using a non-native Android app - making the experience almost second rate.

BlackBerry built the Android player into the operating system as a compromise of being late to the game with BB10, offering no upgrade for BB07, and having an unrefined OS upon release. Now it appears that the very same android player on BlackBerry 10 is allowing them to pivot more seamlessly from BB10 to Android giving them a way forward.

So is this the end BlackBerry 10 O.S?

Not entirely, but it would be a great decision financially to stop developing it and leave it on the back burner. BlackBerry benefits of not having to support OEMs with the operating system, so there is little penalty in this pivot. They can still internally leverage their investment with their QNX offering and even make some money with patents from the R&D, so the technology isn't a complete write off. Heck even Palm O.S. Came back to life in LG T.Vs this year - anything is possible.

But in terms of selling devices, they already stepped out of competing with device manufacturers by stepping out of manufacturing hardware, it's time to stop competing against giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft in operating systems.

By choosing the largest platform available in Android, BlackBerry can focus on what they failed on when they entered the market with BlackBerry 10... differentiated software/apps that bring them real value and income as a company.

This move may or may not be beneficial to BlackBerry in terms of market share, but it will certainly allow them to evolve into a software company, and who knows, maybe serendipitously make money off the consumer market again - wouldn't be the first time their enterprise products became a commercial success.


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