BlackBerry admits new BB10 operating system is a ‘risk’

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Manufacturer explored option of switching to a rival operating system, describing the decision to build its own as ‘difficult’, but says move has ‘reinvented’ the company

BlackBerry president and CEO Thorsten Heins admitted the manufacturer almost shelved plans to release its BB10 operating system – to partner with a rival.

His comments came during a press conference held in New York last week (January 30) for the global launch of the manufacturer’s much-delayed BlackBerry 10 operating system and its first new devices since May 2012 – the Z10 and Q10 (see Z10 review on page 25).

The Canadian firm, which has now ditched its Research In Motion brand after 30 years (see boxout below), streamed the conference to a number of specially organised media events across the globe in cities including London, Paris, Toronto, Dubai, Johannesburg and Jakarta.

Heins described the decision to rebuild its own operating system rather than adopt a rival one – thought to be Windows or Android – as a “very difficult” and “risky” move, but one which has “reinvented” the company.

Heins said: “This is one of the biggest launches in our history and today is in fact not the finish line, it is the start line.

“Two years ago, we had to make a very serious decision – adopt someone else’s platform, or build a whole new one ourselves. We made a tough call to go it alone.

“Bringing an entirely new platform to market and guiding this company through a really difficult position took careful planning, and we absolutely knew it would be risky.”

The risk is evident given the firm’s recent plight. The launch of BB10 has been delayed twice, and the last device it released was the Curve 9320, back in May.

Competition has increased significantly, particularly from Samsung and Apple with their respective Galaxy and iPhone devices. A report by Strategy Analytics last month said Android and Apple accounted for almost 90 per cent of global mobile operating system market share in 2012.

BlackBerry’s global market share on shipments plummeted from 10.3 per cent in 2011 to just 4.6 per cent in 2012, making it the fifth biggest smartphone manufacturer globally behind, Samsung, Apple, Nokia and HTC.
UK share dips

Sales data from research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, indicates in the 12 weeks to December 23, BlackBerry’s UK market share fell from 16 per cent to 6.4 per cent year on year.

And while BlackBerry remains the UK’s third biggest mobile OS behind Apple and Android, with around eight million subscribers, it faces increased competition from Windows Phone whose share trebled year on year to 5.9 per cent.

However, Heins said the introduction of BlackBerry 10 and the changes made to the company will aid its recovery – although he admits the task won’t be easy.

“Just saying we have reinvented the company is simply not enough. The future is still hard work,” Heins said.

“We have been on a journey of transformation, a journey not only to transform our business and brand, but one which I truly believe will transform mobile communications into pure mobile computing.

“We will lead the move from mobile communications into mobile computing. We will be the leader in connecting you to the internet.

“When we first gave you a look at our vision for BlackBerry 10, we were building this for specific customers in mind – people who are hyper-connected socially, the true multitaskers and those who want to get the most out of their smartphones.

“It’s people who need balance in their personal and professional lives, want the simplicity of having everything in one place, want to flow seamlessly from app to app and consider multitasking as a
must-have.

“These people are moving quickly and need their mobiles to keep them up to speed and help them get things done. BlackBerry 10 will keep them moving.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 532 (February 11, 2013).

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