Talking tech since 2003

This morning at the BlackBerry event in New York City, the company unveiled several new things starting with a new name and then new software and hardware.  Our excellent and in-depth coverage of everything announced the BlackBerry event can fill you in on all the specifics, but I want to discuss the possibility of BlackBerry achieving major success with its new line of products.

It’s clear that BlackBerry is trying to reinvent itself here, they are trying very hard to be cool and hip and perhaps most importantly they want everyone to think they are cool.  Cool enough to compete with an iPhone, at least, because as you may be aware, recently BlackBerry smartphones have been anything but cool.  In fact, we recently wrote about how BlackBerry smartphones are an embarrassment and how no one wants to be seen with one in hand.

And while that whole cool factor is a major obstacle for BlackBerry to overcome (perhaps why they brought on Alicia Keys as the company’s Creative Director), there is one other giant hurdle that BlackBerry will have to face, especially in the consumer market: getting people to drop everything and buy a BlackBerry.

What do I mean?

Buying a smartphone is an investment and a commitment from someone.  It’s an investment because you’re not just buying a phone, you’re buying into an entire ecosystem of apps and accessories.  Every paid app you ever purchased on your iPhone would need to be re-purchased on a BlackBerry (if they even have the app at all), your iPhone 5 case will not fit on your new BlackBerry, and all of those other accessories such as external speakers, your alarm clock, etc will not work with a new BlackBerry.  So as you can see, switching to a BlackBerry will cost you a lot more than $199.

As for where commitment comes in?  Well, when you buy a smartphone you’re locked into a contract (most of the time) with your wireless carrier, meaning once you buy it you’re stuck with it, unless you want to sell a kidney to afford the cost of breaking your contract or buying an unsubsidized smartphone.  I doubt many people will be breaking contracts to buy the new BlackBerry smartphones.

Another thing worth noting is that neither Apple or Google have done anything terribly wrong with either of their products.  Android is doing extremely well, as are iOS products — people love them.  So there is no real reason for people to switch away from them.

The way I think about it is like this: the real reason why those Mac vs PC commercials run by Apple worked was because Microsoft royally screwed the pooch with Windows Vista.  It gave Apple a real opening to lure people in to a new ecosystem and it worked.  Apple is selling millions of Mac computers every quarter now and getting people to switch away from the Mac now is much tougher due to the fact people are locked into the Apple ecosystem of apps and accessories.

So while BlackBerry’s new products look and probably are much better, I don’t think it’s enough to save the company.  It’ll be interesting to watch everything unfold though.

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