Monday, September 27, 2010

BlackBerry Going The Way of the Sidekick?

Not being up on the latest (or really, any) mobile news, I may be way off base here. But, I've got a theory I just have to share.

Seems to me, that the BlackBerry devices are going the way of the Sidekick. Allow me to explain.

The Blackberry and Sidekick devices were both revolutionary ahead of their time. The Blackberry effectively introduced mobile e-mail to the world of corporate executives. I can recall back in the early 2000's, at a startup I was at, the C-level execs started carrying these phones with keyboards on them. Sure, I was reading my e-mail on my 6 line Nokia screen - but it was klugy to say the least. And forget about replying to e-mail. From that time until fairly recently (again, as far as I can tell) BlackBerry had been the hands down choice for corporate e-mail.

The first version of the Sidekick brought its own innovations: a flip out keyboard that was a dream to use; data synchronization which meant that the phone was dumb and could be replaced at any time; over-the-air updates; a built in store app which allowed for secure and foolproof purchase of add on programs and music.

And what happened to the Sidekick? It attained its own cult like status (among teenagers, that is) where its features were beloved. Yet, Sidekick, could never seem to innovate much beyond their original feature set. Sure, they'd come up with newer devices that had larger screens, more megapixels or a faster CPU. But really, they were just tweaking a recipe that worked.

In the end, the Sidekick faded from usefulness. Competing phones vastly surpassed it hardware and software, and its cutting edge features eventually became standard on a number of phones (especially, the G1).

And so, as I watch Shira peruse the latest offerings from BlackBerry, do I think I see the same trend there as was happening with the Sidekicks. Sure, the latest BlackBerry may have more memory, a better camera or a brighter screen. But, Shira has yet to find a truly compelling reason to upgrade.

And for may BlackBerry users, this is probably OK. Shira loves the simplicity of the phone. Her e-mail, SMS and chat sessions are always easily available. And she just can't imagine needing all most of the apps that I download.

Still, I wonder just how much longer BlackBerry can get by being the corporate phone of choice. And when they lose that distinction, what's next for them?

So, how off base do you think I am?

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