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Is the Blackberry a dying platform?


Blackberry is headed for a decline – so says this analysis which was endorsed by Fred Wilson (a well known Silicon Valley VC). Indeed the analysis is quite convincing the graph does show that BB may be at its peak and on its way to decline as a platform. But I have 3 reservations for this analysis:

  • Its too early to comment – the subscriber growth drop is only 1 quarter old trend, not something to base a future scenario on
  • It ignores the power of network effect – while apple and android are growing faster than BB, we must acknowledge that blackberry already has a large installed user base and hence it’s not so easy for the whole platform to wipe out instantaneously. More importantly, BB users are primarily corporate users and it’s quite difficult for them to migrate away from the platform based on individual will and whims. The corporation must decide to change before the end subscriber moves.
  • The opinion is based on sample surveys – this objection especially applies to the ‘OS Preferences of People Planning to Replace Their Smartphones’ chart. I would again revert to my argument that the early adopters to BB services were corporate users who wanted pure basic communication to work for them, they didn’t (and to a great extent do not even today) want fancy tools and apps on their phones. However, the current crop of smartphone users are a completely different set who download and use a multitude of games and apps on their smartphones.

Microsoft has been subjected to this kind of analysis for years ever since the early 90s (when Netscape was roaring high). The emergence of the web changed the game for M$ as much as the Mobile Apps have changed the game for BB – however M$ fought back. Accepted that it might have used certain anti-competitive practices, but they wudn't have gotten away if their browser wasn't good.

M$ has reinvented itself with a powerful presence today in multiple platforms more so it’s staple offering – the MS Office suite – has gone from strength to strength and continues its market domination. It will take another decade for Google to displace M$ (even if!).

Given a similar situation, while BB may start getting restricted to corporate usage and fail to make inroads into the new smartphone market – it will still be a long way before RIM bites the dust, and that too if RIM fails to innovate and reinvent the BB platform.

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