∞ Why the BlackBerry can't compete with Apple's iPhone

I’m convinced that as hard as it might try, RIM is fighting a losing battle trying to compete against the iPhone. Why? Because RIM just doesn’t get how to compete against a company like Apple. bb_stormThere is no doubt that RIM has a proven track record in the enterprise space. Push email and the ability to communicate wherever you are were revolutionary when they were first introduced.

Unfortunately, RIM hasn’t done much since. They have lived on the reputation of being a secure device–which is extremely important–but they did little to attract a new audience. That left them vulnerable to a flanking attack by an innovative competitor and that’s just what happened when Apple entered the smartphone market.

Apple brought coolness and mass acceptance to the smartphone market. Previously, smartphones were considered the purview of the high-end business or enterprise market. Apple showed handset makers how that could be brought to the mainstream market.

And they did it like they do everything: Revolutionary tactics.

An Apple device had been rumored for years before it actually came out. That’s because Apple isn’t satisfied with just releasing another smartphone. They want to make a splash and completely change the way things are done.

Apple was knocked around for not having enterprise-level security and some people said it was nothing more than a toy, but the strategy worked. The iPhone took off.

Interestingly enough, RIM and many of the other companies ignored the iPhone when it was launched. I think Apple was glad to see that happen. That allowed them to work on the features that would make it truly compete with the BlackBerry.

iPhone3gsphotoOn March 6, 2008 Apple’s Phil Schiller dropped the bomb on RIM. The next version of the iPhone OS would feature push e-mail, calendar info and contact management; support for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) including Cisco IPsec; and two-factor authentication, certificates and identities. The iPhone would also include the ability to deploy iPhones, set them up automatically and wipe them if necessary.

All of a sudden, RIM is squarely in Apple’s sights.

RIM should have seen this coming. It’s the way Apple works. Apparently it slipped right past them.

Typically, Apple releases an incredibly revolutionary product. It may not be full-featured yet, but it is so cool, it grabs the world’s attention. Next, people call it down because it doesn’t have this feature or that feature. Then Apple rolls in with an amazing update that fixes most of the complaints.

They’ve done it with Macs, iPods, software applications and now the iPhone. It’s a classic Apple maneuver.

Of course, as all of this work is going on fixing and enhancing the software, Apple engineers are already finishing up the next version of the hardware. When that drops into the lap of the public, it sells like wild fire.

Not everything you do can be revolutionary. Apple’s latest iPhones were evolutionary, but they’ve already reached the goal. The iPhone is the cool device to have, just like the iPod is the cool device to have. And it’s secure. And it’s powerful.

Don’t think that RIM hasn’t noticed either. All of a sudden they have the BlackBerry Storm and the Tour and anything else they can think of to try and break the grip that Apple is having on the market.

RIM’s last evolutionary product was 10 years ago. If you want to compete with a company like Apple, incremental products copying the features of the iPhone is not going to do it.



  • http://chuck.goolsbee.org Chuck Goolsbee

    Good points all, but Apple also hamstrung themselves by making the long-term exclusive deal with the devil, er, AT&T. Until you can buy an iPhone that will work on carriers other than AT&T the Blackberry will continue to have a viable market. There are plenty of people who pick handsets by carrier, not carrier by handset, myself included. I was at the keynote and when the multi-year exclusivity with AT&T was announced I knew I’d never own one until that was over.

    –chuck

    • John

      I was very disappointed with the AT&T deal as well. We (my company) have strongly considered the iPhone for our small business, but we have been deterred by this issue. We are about to make the move to new handheld systems and this arrangement with AT&T has us looking elsewhere and if this restriction was not there it would not have even been a consideration, the iPhone would have been our only choice.

  • http://holloway.me Josh Holloway

    Chuck’s right. Since the 3GS was announced, the only two legitimate dealbreakers I’ve heard about the iPhone is carrier and the lack of a physical keyboard. I highly doubt Apple will ever budge on the latter, but I know Verizon and the other carriers are probably desperate to have the iPhone at this point, even as they repeatedly attack the iPhone in favor of their own offerings.

  • JPO

    I used to work with a top 5 USA company. All they used was AT&T and Blackberry devices. So Apple going with AT&T may be a very smart move on their part.

    iPhone is in Disney – Genetech – and some other large organizations. AT&T is not the hindrance everyone makes it out to be. I moved from Verizon to AT&T – I hated Verizon’s control and money grubbing control of my phone. I love the freedom I have with AT&T and my iPhone (freedom in that I can install apps approved by Apple – music – video).

    • http://holloway.me Josh Holloway

      Oh, I definitely agree with you. I know many companies have corporate contracts with AT&T, but for companies (like mine) who already have Verizon or someone else as their provider, it is a hindrance. It’s also a hindrance for individual users who won’t switch carriers for fear of change. In most areas there is really not much difference in coverage or call quality between AT&T and Verizon, except that Verizon’s wireless broadband is faster.

  • mark

    Jobs once called the cell carriers “orifices.” But though not ideal, he found in AT&T a partner more willing to cede a large amount of control. And the deal was a necessary best-of-bad-choices that allowed Apple to be revolutionary. (Even so, Apple failed in its initiative to end subsidies.) But on the whole, because of what Apple/AT&T started, all the carriers now feel they have to cede more control to gain the data users that they so covet (and need).

    Nitpick: RIM did not ignore the iPhone. They got started immediately but it still took 20 months to release its Storm with an innovation that very few cared for. Palm started a bit later, and it took 23 months to release the Pre. Nokia also started immediately, and took many months to release the 5800 and N97. All of these phones are evolutionary relative to the first iPhone. What is the next revolution?

  • http://www.thegraphicmac.com Jim

    AT&T is a deterrent not because of their service (though it’s notoriously bad), but because they can (and currently are) price fix the iPhone. With no competition, they can charge whatever they want.

    I simply refuse to pay just shy of $100 per month for a freaking phone, I don’t care what else it can do. Other carriers offering the iPhone would likely have the result of the contract price dropping down into the $50-$60 range – a bit more reasonable.

    As for the Blackberry, I highly doubt Apple will EVER break the choke-hold RIM has with enterprise customers. Those companies are staffed with IT people who simply refuse to accept that the Mac is a viable option. They’ll do everything they can to convince the decision makers that an Apple product is a bad choice. And it’s quite shocking how much power I.T. managers have in the decision-making process when it comes to the technology in a company. I mean, that IS their job, but you would think the higher-ups would be a bit more proactive in their own research and forming their own opinions.

  • iphonerulez

    Guess what. The enterprise won’t touch the iPhone with a ten-foot pole. Why? Because all the IT people say the BlackBerry is better for them to manage. Apple is a large and innovative company, but it doesn’t seem to know how to build ANY product for corporate use. Apple can’t even figure out how to build a simple iPhone administration package that can imitate what the BES server does. Sitting on close to $30 billion dollars in reserve cash is useless. They’d better hire an ex-RIM programmer to teach them what they need to know about security and profile administration.

    Basically all the large companies are scared to use Macs, OSX or iPhones in their offices. Isn’t that fairly pathetic for Apple which is the supposedly greatest software/hardware company in the world.

    What’s really funny is that IT actually runs all the companies. What is the percentage of IT staff to a large corporation? Maybe 1 or 2%. If they say they don’t want something, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. IT is thumbing its nose at Apple and Apple can’t meet the challenge. IT could write down a list of deficiencies of Apple products and Apple should be able to just take those holes and plug them up. Other companies have figured these problems out but Apple either can’t or doesn’t care to.

    One thing I have to give RIM credit for. They try to adjust the best way they can. It may be a catch-up sort of way of doing business, but they do try. I never thought they’d come out with a strictly touch-screen product. That’s like breaking some sort of cardinal rule for a company that thrives on keyboards. And they do try to build products for many types of users which is very accomodating for luring potential consumers.

    • Gustav

      In the ’80s and early ’90s Apple was in a lot of corporate spaces. They got pushed out by MS-loving IT managers.

      But the reason they’re not back in now is not that there are no good management tools (there are plenty for MacOS X). It’s Apple’s policy of secrecy. IT people want to know what they’re going to be up against 6 months from now. The other issue is that new machines that come out right after a major OS upgrade won’t run the previous OS. If IT needs 6 months or more to roll out Leopard (for example) and need to buy new computers in that time – they need to run Tiger.

    • http://holloway.me Josh Holloway

      I work in IT for a medium-sized business. I am using a Mac that’s bound to a Windows domain to type this. I guarantee you that most marketing departments in medium and large companies are run almost entirely on Macs. True, in the early days of OS X, enterprise support was very lackluster (and that’s being kind), but that was 8 years ago. With Leopard, AD support and other enterprise features are standard, and Snow Leopard ups the ante by introducing native Exchange support that is arguably better than what Windows offers out of the box, and all that’s included with the regular price of the OS license (no need to buy a “Business” version for twice the price).

      I will agree with you, though, that Apple’s “secrecy” is a hindrance to the IT world. The developer seeds of Snow Leopard are all I have to work with, and they don’t include the Directory Utility. Because of this, I don’t have any way to anticipate problems that may occur with possible newer versions of AD support. I’ll have to wait until the final version is released to test it, which will delay any possible OS X upgrades we do as a company.

      I’ll also agree that the iPhone Configuration Utility is not as good an option as BES. I like the ability to create profiles and things like that for the device, but without remote management, updates, installation, etc., its use is very limited. Just keep in mind that this utility has only been out for a year now. I can see it growing and becoming more useful just like the enterprise features of OS X have.

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  • http://www.techmajesty.com/ techmajesty

    Blackberry has a well developed application marketplace call Appworld. I gather you could not find the Appworld icon your device. If you are going to do a review or personal experience piece on a device please take a few minutes and learn about the device before stating things that are completely wrong.

    Regards, http://www.techmajesty.com/unlock-blackberry-curve/