In some consumer markets, there are giants who dominate an industry for years, only to be thrown aside by newcomers. In the console gaming market, for example, Sega was in a two horse race with Nintendo for years, but, with the entries of Sony and Microsoft (News - Alert) into the space, Sega found itself losing ground and, eventually, pulling out of the console-manufacturing market altogether. This is just one cautionary tale among many that BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (News - Alert) can consider as they move forward in the smartphone space. RIM does not want to become Sega and, to try to remain relevant; the Canadian company is trying to build an early buzz for an upcoming release.
BlackBerry (News - Alert) was once king of the smartphone realm but, with the rise of the iPhone and the growing popularity of Android-based devices, the company has been losing market share in the US for quite a while. But at the end of this year, RIM is releasing its latest smartphone, the BlackBerry 10, fervently hoping it will be a smashing success. Now, to start the hype machine rolling as early as possible, the company plans to distribute 2,000 prototypes of the device at a company-sponsored event in Orlando.
Getting your hands on a new smartphone is pretty exciting. Of course, that excitement could dim a little when you realize the smartphone doesn’t actually make calls. Nor can it access wireless networks. To many, that would seem to take both the “smart” and the “phone” out of the smartphone.
It may seem like an odd move for the company to hand out a device that is so incomplete – it doesn’t even have the full version of the operating system, subbing in a stripped-down version of the user interface for these prototype models. But RIM hopes that reviewers will look beyond what is missing and focus on the features that are new and, hopefully, exciting, features that the company wishes to highlight.
First of all, there are design features. The new BlackBerry has a larger screen than the iPhone, 4.2-inches compared to 3.5-inches on the Apple (News - Alert) device. It also sports dual microphones, which the company says will make for better voice quality on calls – when the calling features become available, of course. Perhaps to keep in line with competitors, the device does not include a keyboard, which is typically a BlackBerry staple.
Another area where RIM hopes to compete with Apple and Android (News - Alert) is through innovative apps. BlackBerry devices have always trailed behind competitors in the variety and quality of available apps, and RIM hopes to coerce developers into creating more and better apps within the new BlackBerry 10 operating system. The prototype phones are loaded with few apps, though, so it remains to be seen if this will be the case when the fully-loaded devices are released to the public.
The impetus for the free prototypes is likely RIM’s experience with its PlayBook tablet. Sales of the device were tepid but, after giving away thousands of the devices, the company experienced an uptick in app development. RIM is clearly hoping to build positive buzz for the phone’s eventual release, perhaps hoping to achieve Apple-like mania, which often involves die-hard Apple zombies lining up for hours or days to secure the latest device.
Ultimately, the stripped down version of the phone won’t give anyone a clear picture as to the quality of the final product but, when you are the last dog in the sled race, your view rarely changes, so the company has to try something. As reviews start to pour in and we get closer and closer to the actual release, we’ll have a better idea if this new BlackBerry is sweet or if RIM will be tasting the bitter sweet of disappointment once again.