RIM engineers call touchscreen BlackBerry ‘Apple Killer’

“R.I.M. may have trouble dominating the [smartphone] market’s next phase. Once the exclusive domain of e-mail-obsessed professionals, smartphones are now prized by consumers who want easy access to the Web, digital music and video even more than an omnipresent connection to their in-boxes,” Brad Stone reports for The New York Times.

“Since the iPhone went on sale last summer, amid long lines of shoppers and media adulation, the contours of the smartphone market have begun to shift rapidly toward consumers. An industry once characterized by brain-numbing acronyms and droning discussions about enterprise security is now defined by buzz around handset design, video games and mobile social networks,” Stone reports.

“That means R.I.M., which has historically viewed big corporations and wireless carriers as its bedrock customers, needs to alter its DNA in a hurry,” Stone reports. “While business is booming in Waterloo, analysts are raising an important question about R.I.M.’s future: Can a company that defined mobile e-mail for a generation of thumb-jockeys with bad posture also dominate the new consumer market for smartphones?”

“At the end of last year, BlackBerry had a 40 percent share of the United States smartphone market, down from 45 percent at the end of 2006, thanks largely to the 17.4 percent share the iPhone grabbed in its first six months,” Stone reports.

“In March, Mr. Jobs announced that Apple would take the rare step of licensing Microsoft’s corporate e-mail technology, to allow iPhones to connect directly to business computers — a dagger aimed at the heart of R.I.M.’s strength in the corporate market. In Apple’s quarterly conference call last week, Apple executives said that one-third of Fortune 500 companies were interested in giving iPhones to their employees,” Stone reports.

Apple, meanwhile, in an effort to further increase its appeal to consumers, is also expected to introduce a new 3G version of the iPhone in June, which will work on speedier wireless networks and may further attract a new segment of customers to the iPhone in the United States and abroad,” Stone reports.

RIM is working on a new BlackBerry, one that will feature a touchscreen and also a physical keyboard. The device “will have elegant curves suggestive of the iPhone,” Stone reports.

MacDailyNews Take: An iPhone case look-alike with a “touchscreen” that is not a Multi-Touch UI will not threaten iPhone.

Stone continues, “There’s a reason that R.I.M. is averse to the iPhone’s glass pad. ‘I couldn’t type on it and I still can’t type on it, and a lot of my friends can’t type on it,’ says Mike Lazaridis, R.I.M.’s co-chief executive and technological visionary. ‘It’s hard to type on a piece of glass.'”

MacDailyNews Take: No, actually it isn’t hard at all to type on a virtual predictive, auto-correcting keyboard, as any iPhone owner will tell you. RIM is trying to position their devices, that are festooned with plastic buttons that are always in the way whether they are in use or not, vs. the iPhone.

Stone continues, “Despite his critique of the iPhone, he does not dismiss the possibility that R.I.M. may itself one day sell a touch-screen phone, aimed specifically at consumers without the e-mail demands of BlackBerry’s core users. Indeed, two independent developers writing software for coming R.I.M. devices say that a touch-screen BlackBerry is in the works, and that R.I.M. engineers privately refer to it as the A.K. — for ‘Apple Killer.'”

Apple is “trying to dislodge the carriers from the nexus of the North American wireless market. Unlike other phone makers in the United States, Apple sells iPhones from its own stores and has negotiated relatively stingy contracts with the carriers, in exchange for limited periods of exclusivity,” Stone reports. Jim Balsillie, R.I.M.’s other co-chief executive says, “‘We are sort of polite and amiable and we gently interrelate with the carriers and try to find compatibility,’ Mr. Balsillie said. ‘It may be a better strategy to fight the carrier. We may be wrong. The carrier may get disintermediated, in which case we fade with them.'”

“In a survey this year of 3,600 professionals by ChangeWave, a research company, 54 percent of BlackBerry users said they were very satisfied with their devices,” Stone reports. “Even so, the BlackBerry was a distant second in the survey: the comparable figure for the iPhone was 79 percent.”

MacDailyNews Take: And those 54 percent had yet to touch an iPhone. RIM is in decline. Apple is ascendent.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: There are too many iPhone developers working with an excellent iPhone SDK with access to a $100 million (and that’s just the initial amount) venture capital fund for RIM to adequately compete. RIM is already getting killed; just look at the market share that iPhone 1.0 has already taken. RIM will continue to lose market share to Apple regardless of the number of fake iPhones based on old technology that RIM rolls out. As with the iPod, the only real “iPhone Killer” is the next-gen Apple iPhone.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Mike in Helsinki” for the heads up.]


  1. The only problem with the iPhone keyboard is when you encounter everything outside Safari cause we STILL don’t have the universally applied landscape keyboard. It would make a huge difference if we could use it for everything.

    iPhone 2.0 better have the universal landscape keyboard, man. I’ll raise hell if it doesn’t. That shitty Sprint iPhone ripoff by Samsung will have it and there’s no reason why the iPhone can’t.

  2. @Gabriel A lot of people seem to like to use the word “disintermediated” in connection with Internet businesses. Usually they mean that you get rid of the middle man, as in buying music from the artist without paying the record company. I don’t think you can actually remove the cellphone carrier, but I think Mr. RIM means the carrier becomes a dumb pipe.

    @K Apple has made arrangements to let businesses distribute their own apps to their iPhone users.

  3. “R.I.M. engineers privately refer to it as the A.K. — for ‘Apple Killer.'””

    That tells you all you need to know.

    This company had such a high opinion of itself, and now it’s own engineers are tacitly admitting that Apple are miles in front. One wonders if they’ve even grasped how far in front; but the point is that they know Apple is.

    You don’t speak of “killing” the also-rans.

    “RIM is working on a new BlackBerry, one that will feature a touchscreen and also a physical keyboard. …”

    Oh, God. They didn’t get the point? Or, more likely, they lack the technological means to do what Apple’s done.

    “The device ‘will have elegant curves suggestive of the iPhone,’ Stone reports.”

    That is embarrassing, just embarrassing.

    It’ll look somewhat like it even if it doesn’t work as well … like those fake Rolex watches I keep getting spam about.

    Killer — give over. About as much of an “iPhone killer” as all those crappy “iPod killers” the likes of Zen were coming out with.


    Anyone who says they’ve got a “killer” of some other product has already lost.

  4. \begin{quote}
    Len Ellis, one of the wisest men in this industry [marketing], declaimed from the podium, “Best practices are
    yesterday’s news. Tell me about emerging practices.”

  5. Played with a lost Blackberry that we received at work. I found the keyboard awkward, had problems hitting the proper keys, and the feel was horrible. So, goes to show you that once you are familiar with a product- you are comfortable with it.
    I prefer the glass pad and it works well with two finger typing, just learn how to hold your fingers and the brain fixes the rest.
    Found the interface confusing and enjoyed the iPhone GUI much better. Here is where the iPhone is really different. Much faster to use the iPhone as well as the clarity of the text. Just light years ahead of the Blackberry.
    So choose what you like and the rest will feel different. But keyboard or lack of will always feel different until one adjusts to it.

  6. At the end RIM is going to win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Why? coz you can use RIM’s BB anywhere and with any network. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    @ MDN: Shutup and first talk about iphone’s european sales.

    iPhone will win only if apple sells it unlocked. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  7. What is this obsession with email? My iPhone does email fantastically, and even my old Treo models (the 600 and 650) were perfectly adequate email machines.

    I understand the whole concept of push email, but if you set your mobile to check every 10 minutes (or even 5 if you’re really nuts) you can be very close to real-time without the need for push email.

    Are there really that many people out there who need to know something _right now_ and can’t wait a whopping 5 minutes for it? If so, please let me understand why. I’m not being at all sarcastic here: I really would like to understand what user population needs absolutely real-time email.


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