Tag Archives | RIM

The More Phone App Stores the Merrier

BlackBerry OpenBusinessWeek is reporting that RIM is close to opening an online application store for its BlackBerry smartphones that will provide its customers with an experience similar to Apple’s App Store. Microsoft, Nokia, and Palm application stores are expected to follow.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but for Apple’s competitors, it’s a matter of necessity. Apple offers iPhone users a seamless experience for discovering, purchasing, and upgrading their applications. The competition lags far behind, but is preparing to counter punch.

The first punch comes from RIM. It will launch its application store in Las Vegas at the CTIA wireless conference, according to the BusinessWeek report. RIM has a fair number of applications available for its platform, but the selection is still limited in comparison to other mobile platforms. That shortcoming was something that I did not like about my BlackBerry, as well as having to reboot my phone every time I installed a new application.

Microsoft’s upcoming store, which it calls Marketplace, has a lot of potential. If Microsoft knows anything, it’s how to keep developers that use its platforms and tools happy. There are already a good number of applications available for Windows Mobile, and I think that Marketplace stands a good chance of being be a decent offering.

The same goes for Nokia. The Symbian operating system is still the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, and there is no shortage of applications available for its devices. The problem has been finding and installing them.

If other phone OS companies open decent storefronts, the iPhone will be less differentiated from the crowd. But Apple may have already gained brand loyalty during the iPhone’s period of App-Store uniqueness. I’m not what you would call a fanboy, but there would have to be a really compelling offering for me to switch to another device from my iPhone. Regardless of what I buy next, I’m just happy that I will have better products to pick from as a consequence of Apple’s leadership and the rest of the industry’s tendency to follow its lead.

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Nokia Cuts R&D, Production

Singing the macro-economic woes, Finnish telecommuncations giant Nokia has decided to cut production and to close one of its R&D sites. Ultimately, the company has failed to capitalize on the strength of the smartphone market.

Nokia is reducing production at its plant in Salo, Finland, and has begun to phase in furlough days that will affect 20 to 30% of the plant’s 2,500 employees, on a rotational basis. The company is also shuttering its facility in Jyvaskyla, Finland, costing 320 people their jobs.

Nokia told investors in January that it expects cell phone demand to fall 10 percent in 2009. However, it managed to increase its share of the worldwide mobile market in 2008 even while demand was weakened by lowered consumer confidence, according to a September 5 report by Nordic Business Report. It experienced a 69 percent drop in its 2008 fourth-quarter net profit.

In many markets, Nokia’s sales grew–it’s the U.S. market that has remained its albatross. RCR Wireless News reported in July that Nokia claimed 40% of the market in 2008, and its sales were particularly strong in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, and Middle East.

The company is relying upon high-end smartphones to help them cope with economic crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported in a December interview with Jonas Geust, vice president of Nokia Nseries unit. The smart phone market is growing, but Nokia is not a benefiting much. It is losing out to fierce competition from Apple and Research In Motion.

It seems counterintuitive for Nokia to cut its expenses when its most advanced devices are failing to sell. The 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia’s initial answer to the iPhone, lacked multitouch capabilities. That should have been an indication that it needed to invest more, not less. I don’t see how a move away from innovation is good for customers.

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The ObamaBerry: It’s Real!

ObamaberryYes, you can be the President of the United States and a denizen of the 21st century, apparently–at least when it comes to cell phones. The U.S. government has figured out how to mod a BlackBerry for super-secure communications, giving President Obama the ability to use the gizmo he feared losing for routing and personal communications. He’s relieved, I’m sure. And I’m relieved–the position is enough of a guy in a plastic bubble already, and there’s something basically unhealthy about the notion that the job is incompatible with modern means of communications. (Let’s hope we never have another leader of the free world who thinks it’s called “the Google.”)

All of which leaves one burning question: Just which BlackBerry model does the president tote? I suspect he’s an 8800 man, although I wouldn’t rule out the idea that he’s upgraded to a Bold.

In a semi-related story, the Washington Post has a good (if alarming) story on the very low-tech White House that the Obama administration is inheriting, with a great quote from spokesman Bull Burton: ” “It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari.”


The Last Word on the BlackBerry Storm: It’s Not So Hot

stormreviewsI haven’t laid eyes on a BlackBerry Storm in person yet. More to the point, I haven’t laid fingers on one–so I have no first-hand impressions of how the first touch-screen BlackBerry compares to traditional BlackBerries, the iPhone, and other alternatives. But a gazillion reviews hit the Web today–so many, in fact, that I can’t read every word of every one.

So I’m doing what I often do: skipping to the last paragraph in hopes that it’s a useful, pithy summary of the review’s buying advice. And I’m finding that almost all of them are at best pretty diffident about this phone. Especially given the fact that BlackBerries tend to get good reviews.

After the jump, a bunch of last paragraphs for your perusal…
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Bring on the Bold! AT&T Sets a Launch Date for New BlackBerry

I’ve written several times about RIM’s BlackBerry Bold–mostly with an an impatient edge in my voice, since I first got to try one way last spring and thought it would come out on AT&T at around the same time that the iPhone 3G arrived in mid-July. AT&T took longer to decree the phone ready for prime time than anyone expected–a good thing, apparently–but it’s reached its comfort zone. The company has announced that the Bold will go on sale on November 4th; it’ll cost $300 with a two-year contract.

To recap, the Bold is the next-generation full-sized BlackBerry: It’s got 3G data capability, an excellent screen (the same resolution as an iPhone, but more dots per inch). improved software with what looks like a decent browser and new media apps, and, yes, a very real physical keyboard. I’ve lost track of the number of BlackBerry users who have asked me about it over the past few months, and the number of times I’ve told them to hold off on jumping ship to the iPhone until they were able to try out a Bold. My gut is that there are a lot of BlackBerry users who have no desire to give up their clicky little keyboards, but want a hipper phone–and therefore there may be a big pent-up demand for a phone like the Bold.

The Bold has taken so long to make its appearance that it risks never getting a chance to be the newest, coolest BlackBerry: Verizon will be shipping the BlackBerry Storm soon, too, and its touchscreen makes it a more strikingly different type of BlackBerry than the more evolutionary Bold. I haven’t tried the Storm yet. But no matter how cool it turns out to be, I think there’s going to be a very large market for BlackBerry devices with real QWERTY keyboards for a long time to come.

Much more to come on the Bold once we get our hands on one for a full review.


Microsoft’s Next Acquisition Target May Be RIM

Research In Motion’s stock price has taken a nosedive in recent weeks. While some of it has to do with the overall market meltdown that is occuring on Wall Street, it is also experiencing pressure related to the costs of launching new devices such as the BlackBerry Storm and Bold, which Harry just spoke of.

The stock is now down to about $53, a stunning 65 percent fall from its June high of $148. It’s precipitous drop has stirred talk on the Street of a possible buyout, with one analyst saying Microsoft could be that company.

“RIM is a massive strategic fit” for Microsoft, Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek told Reuters. “I’m fairly certain they have a standing offer to buy them at $50 (a share).”

If Microsoft were able to make this happen, it would be a huge win for them. Windows Mobile (while doing okay) really hasn’t made much of a real dent in the smart phone market. By snagging RIM, Redmond would gain a good deal of footing against Apple and Symbian, as well as new entrant Google.

There is some thing that still need to happen, namely at least another $10 or so drop in RIM’s stock price if this were to happen. RIM right now has a value of about $31 billion or so, a little to much for Microsoft to handle without tapping the credit markets.

With credit all but frozen right now, that’s not going to happen. However, if it is able to make a $50 per share offer, the value of the company would be placed at about $28 billion, much more affordable.

Reuters estimates that Microsoft has about $24 billion or so in cash and short-term investments that could be used to finance most of the deal. I guess the question then becomes, is it worth it depleting your cash reserves in an economic climate such as this?

I’d think you’d be able to find a lot of analysts who would argue that wouldn’t be such a smart idea.

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Whither the BlackBerry Bold?

Way back last spring, when I still worked at PC World, we received a visit from RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. He showed us the company’s next-generation smartphone, the BlackBerry Bold. And I got really excited. The Bold had one of the best screens I’d ever seen–one which, in terms of dpi, offered far more resolution for its size than the iPhone display. It had an updated user interface, media apps, and a new browser. It was the first 3G GSM BlackBerry. The keyboard looked excellent. In terms of aesthetics, it was a stylin’ little gadget (except, maybe, for its “leatherette” backside).

All in all, it looked terrific–I thought it probably was the second most interesting smartphone of the year after the second-generation iPhone (whose name we didn’t know yet). And for folks who like little plastic keys, it looked like the most interesting phone. I looked forward to AT&T rolling it out–and at the time, it sounded like that would happen at roughly the same time that the new iPhone made its debut.

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The T-Grid: BlackBerry Storm vs. iPhone 3G

Another week, another new touch-screen phone that has an awful lot in common with the iPhone 3G. But the most interesting things about RIM’s BlackBerry Storm aren’t the ways it’s similar to an iPhone–it’s the ways it’s different. Starting with the fact that it’s a BlackBerry, with all the wireless synching goodness you’d expect. It will be on Verizon–a major plus for lots of folks–and will be a world phone that does CDMA at home and GSM around the world.

The Storm is the first touchscreen BlackBerry, but its screen features haptic feedback that gives a clicky feel as you type on the virtual keyboard, which sounds interesting, at least. (Most of the BlackBerry fanatics I know are e-mail warriors who really, really want a phone with a physical keyboard–it’ll be fascinating to see if the Storm’s simulation of one is good enough to convince them to go touchscreen.)

I’m also happy to hear that the Storm comes with DataViz’s Documents To Go Office-compatible suite preinstalled–though I’m also curious to see just how easy it is to edit documents on a phone without a real keyboard.

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