BlackBerry 10: Recipe for a Successful Launch – The Questions

In previous posts in this series I have provided some background and discussed the many features of BlackBerry 10 as well as the infrastructure being put in place to support its forthcoming launch. However, many questions remain outstanding. What I provide here is pure speculation based on public information that I have encountered as the launch date approaches.

To get to the questions:

What will BlackBerry Messenger become?

Will BlackBerry Messenger become a more comprehensive communications application competing with Skype and FaceTime (and even Facebook Messenger’s new voice service)? Recently BlackBerry Messenger on legacy BlackBerries (OS 5, 6 and 7) added BBM voice, a free voice calling service between WiFi access points. But also I have had video conversations using the Video Chat application over WiFion the Playbook. And the BlackBerry Developer blog has discussed various tools for supporting VoIP.

At the same time there is heavy promotion of BBM Connected apps. Basically the technology foundation exists with RIM for building text, voice and video conversation applications. The real question comes down to how many end points can any communications application reach?

All I can say at this time is to expect some significant announcements about BlackBerry Messenger at the launch event. After all it’s the key glue for encouraging BBM’s current 60 million users to stay with BlackBerry.

What mainstream apps will be available?

RIM has been building partnerships and applications involving social media. Facebook clients exist on all current BlackBerry devices and it has been seen in some BlackBerry 10 demonstrations (even came up by accident in the demonstration posted at Voice On The Web). We know they will also have FourSquare, Twitter and LinkedIn applications. WordPress has been on the BlackBerry Playbook as a port of their Android application.

While there are lots of requests for Netflix, it’s not a big issue in Canada. Netflix Canada needs to upgrade their content offering; currently it appears to be embroiled in copyright issues. It’s not a big hit in Canada but can understand the demand in the U.S.

Many enterprise applications such as SAP and Cisco Webex have been mentioned as being supported. We know is coming.

We’ll really have to wait until the launch day to see the launch line up of mainstream applications. It’s no secret that RIM has had a separate developer relations team focused on the mainstream apps.

Will some developers come up with unique “Killer” apps that leverage the unique feature set of BB10/QNX?

Everyone looks at the app count and the mainstream apps. But what if some developers have fully leveraged QNX’s (and BB10’s) unique features to come up with some “killer” or highly viral apps that simply cannot be reproduced on Android or iOS?

Only time will tell on this but there’s some significant opportunity here.

Will we see any linkage to the QNX automobile applications?

QNX’s legacy relationship with automobile manufacturers has certainly seen more coverage recently. The Bentley concept car at CES 2013 attracted a lot of attention. I did see a BlackBerry 10 with a concept application for interacting with the Bentley. Will there be any mention of this capability at the launch?

How will they attract non-BlackBerry owners?

I see two distinct customer groups: the largely loyal existing, 79 million strong, customer base and then the “others”. The challenge is to attract the “others”, especially those whose smartphone contracts come up for renewal. Will a new user experience be enough?

Only time, the marketing activity and the response from end users will tell? This is RIM’s biggest challenge in terms of rebuilding the brand.

Will production match demand?

The most pressing question at this time is can RIM forecast production to meet demand across the combination of a touch keyboard and hardware keyboard. There is a lot of pent-up demand. Will RIM sell millions of units in the first few months? My prediction: 2 million in the first month after product release; 5 million in the first full business quarter after product release (March to May 2013). (And, yes, I have had responsibility for forecasting sales and production in the course of my career.)

This one is not a question. With $2.9 Billion cash and an experienced CMO, expect a very strong and active marketing campaign.

Bottom line: These are only a sampling of the questions outstanding.  When I heard that RIM bought QNX two years ago I felt that, if RIM could execute and turn its features into a marketable story, RIM could come up with an interesting and unique product offering. Now the question is “What will RIM surprise us with at the launch event?”

On the first anniversary of Thorsten Heins’ appointment as RIM CEO, we have seen all the pieces put in place for an amazing turn around. He stuck to the original vision for what QNX could provide as a mobile computing platform; he cleaned up the business side of RIM (restructuring, combining layoffs with strategic new hires, reorganizing manufacturing and most importantly making sure everyone knew their role and has responsibility for their role.); he has the company totally focused on a mission.

The events of the next month will be a widely monitored and a most interesting experience in the technology business world.

Previous posts:

Full disclosure: the author has a small holding of RIM shares. But he also has iOS and Android devices in order to experience a cross section of the smartphone and tablet market. These observations are based on publicly available information combined with his own past business experience at senior management levels in high technology markets. His main interest is in seeing several thousand jobs maintained in not only the Canadian economy but also in RIM organizations around the world.

Given that RIM stock has been on a tear for the past few days since I started drafting this series I can only say check with your investment advisor before taking any action. These posts are for information purposes only.

About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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