In the run-up to the launch of the first iPhone, Apple’s share price rose from $93 to a peak of $140. As Research in Motion girds itself for the launch of BB10, it’s risen from $6.22 to $17.54. Few figures could be more indicative of the huge anticipation surrounding BlackBerry’s new Z10 device, or how low RIM’s stock has fallen.
That rise – 281 per cent compared to 50 per cent – already reflects the careful management of BlackBerry mobile phone launch and the enthusiasm of networks for another operating system to challenge iOS and Android, as well as how low BlackBerry has sunk. No wonder Forrester’s Charles Golvin calls the challenge “gargantuan”. It seems hard to imagine RIM taking the place of the iPhone five years from now.
Still, the devices themselves have both been widely leaked and widely praised. RIM has shown off so many features that everything seems to be coming together neatly, from the personalised typing patterns on the screen's keyboard to the combined inbox. Even BlackBerry’s plan to spend millions on making and showing a SuperBowl ad seems to have struck many observers as a reasonable marketing tactic rather than an act of desperation.
But a clear-headed analysis of BlackBerry shows two things: its core user base remains the corporate IT department, which for decades inflicted devices on poor employees yet now increasingly provides people with devices they genuinely want to own. And BlackBerry sustained its user base for as long as it did on the back of young people buying cheap, low-grade devices. Tales from professionals are all too often of poor build quality and multiple replacements.
Both those audiences have changed hugely: even security-conscious accountancy firms such as Deloitte are more than happy to provider employees with Android and iOS devices. Few actively choose BlackBerry when offered. Stopping the haemorrhage means turning around a battleship.