I know, I know, I’m a hypocrite. I complain that every new touchscreen handset is promoted as an “iPhone killer”, yet I can’t stop posting about them. This “iPhone killer” story is particularly interesting because it’s about that behemoth of the mobile phone world, BlackBerry.
RIM CEO Mike Lazardis isn’t a fan of touchscreens. In a
New York Times story about how RIM is reacting to Apple’s assault on the mobile phone market, Lazardis is quoted as saying “I couldn’t type on [the iPhone’s glass screen] and I still can’t type on it, and a lot of my friends can’t type on it”. Despite their lord and master’s misgivings, RIM is still hard at work producing the BlackBerry touchscreen. RIM engineers have dubbed the long-rumoured touchscreen BlackBerry the “the A.K. – for Apple Killer”. Brave words indeed, RIM engineers.
The NYT article also revealed that BlackBerry’s tactic is to stick close to carriers. This is the opposite to the approach adopted by Apple and Google, who are trying to “dislodge the carriers from the nexus of the North American wireless market”. BlackBerry partner with 350 carriers around the world, and they often sell heavily discounted BlackBerry handsets. Apple sells the iPhone from its own stores and calls the shots with its carriers, offering them comparatively stingy deals. Google has been (unsuccessfully) bidding for wireless spectrum this year, in an attempt to force carriers to be more open to allowing a variety of handsets and internet services on their networks.
BlackBerry’s problem seems to be that they don’t know which market sector to appeal to. The traditional BlackBerry customer wants a business phone which is highly functional but doesn’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles (e.g. games, applications etc.). Apple has shown that there is a big market of potential customers looking for a business phone with a bit more pizzazz. Perhaps the touchscreen BlackBerry will offer exactly that.