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Old 09-29-2009, 04:46 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Lightbulb Merits/Demerits of BB v. Iphone

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A few questions that will surely belie my own ignorance, but as an investor in RIMM I feel compelled to ask anyway.

As a professional who has used BB devices his entire career, I am generally confident in BB's prospects of continuing to dominate the business/data transmission sector of the handheld industry. In a word, nothing suffices like BB's physical keyboard and email displays (and nothing annoys more than a touchscreen keyboard). On the other hand, the Iphone, while an endearing device, has always appeared to me as more of a "gimmicky" (probably not fair to Apple) app-ridden media center whose basic premise is that phones (read: not email devices) should be "fun" and whose customer base is everyone who either doesn't mind carrying two devices (i.e., BB and an Iphone) or is not a habitual emailer.

However, I recently ran across the following (which I am sure is news to no one):

RIM working on a touchscreen QWERTY slider hybrid? - SlipperyBrick.com

This, together with news of the more traditional looking, new 99xx touchscreen, leads me to a few basic questions. I would certainly appreciate anyone addressing these in turn:

First: What, if anything, is stopping BB from developing these hybrid touchscreen phones that incorporate a physical keyboard and essentially combine the best of the BB and Iphone worlds? If BB succeeded in doing this, would its OS be able to run Iphone or Iphone-esque apps?

Second: Why was the BB app store such a flop in comparison to the Apple app store? I read recently that BB has only about 750 apps available, compared to the Iphone's 16,000 or so.

Third (and related to the First point, I suppose): Would one or both of these new touchscreen blackberries have a touchscreen which will "swipe" touch like the Iphone, as opposed to pressing buttons underlying the screen (and if not, why in the world not, as surely it is better to have the full screen range touchable rather than designated press-areas)?

Fourth and Finally: I would welcome any thoughts and/or constructive criticism of my view of the relative merits/demerits of the BB platform vis-a-vis the Iphone platform.

Sincerest apologies for running on like this, but I have been mulling over these issues for the last few days (especially in light of the fact that RIMM recently missed analysts' estimates (not that that is an indication of an inherent flaw in the business model by any means) and just wanted to get some other views.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-29-2009, 05:58 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seraphim123 View Post
First: What, if anything, is stopping BB from developing these hybrid touchscreen phones that incorporate a physical keyboard and essentially combine the best of the BB and Iphone worlds? If BB succeeded in doing this, would its OS be able to run Iphone or Iphone-esque apps?
There's nothing stopping RIM from developing touch-screen/keyboard based devices. There is one rumored to be coming. RIM releases products (as does any other company) when they feel the time is right and their development is at a point where it can be released. The trick to hardware development is making something that will sell, work well, and meet the demands of the end-users. Ultimately, however, companies exist to make the shareholders money and nothing more. So, the primary driving force behind releasing products is profit, and if they don't believe a device will be received well (and therefore sell well), they won't release it.

The iPhone uses a derivative of the Mac OS X operating system, and the BlackBerry uses a Java based OS, so the BlackBerry will never be able to run iPhone software. I can't answer the second part of your question because I have no idea what "iPhone esque" means.

Quote:
Second: Why was the BB app store such a flop in comparison to the Apple app store? I read recently that BB has only about 750 apps available, compared to the Iphone's 16,000 or so.
The Apple marketing machine is nothing to be messed with. Apple makes good products, in my opinion, just as RIM does, but if people are honest, they can't deny the Apple marketing machine is a mighty powerful force.

Quote:
Third (and related to the First point, I suppose): Would one or both of these new touchscreen blackberries have a touchscreen which will "swipe" touch like the Iphone, as opposed to pressing buttons underlying the screen (and if not, why in the world not, as surely it is better to have the full screen range touchable rather than designated press-areas)?
The current BlackBerry Storm doesn't have "designated press-areas," so there is no reason to expect any future touch-screen devices from RIM to have any either. As far as I know (and someone with a Storm can confirm), the Storm has the ability to recognize swiping, touching, clicking, etc. Whether or not the Storm (and Storm 2) are multi-touch capable, I am not sure. Again, someone with a Storm will need to comment specifically about that.

Quote:
Fourth and Finally: I would welcome any thoughts and/or constructive criticism of my view of the relative merits/demerits of the BB platform vis-a-vis the Iphone platform.
Please search here and via Google. This topic gets discussed constantly.

Quote:
Sincerest apologies for running on like this, but I have been mulling over these issues for the last few days (especially in light of the fact that RIMM recently missed analysts' estimates (not that that is an indication of an inherent flaw in the business model by any means) and just wanted to get some other views.

Thanks in advance.
Just a point of clarification because it is a pet peeve of mine... the company is RIM, not RIMM and not BlackBerry or BB, as it stands for Research in Motion, Limited. RIMM is the stock symbol. BlackBerry (or BB) is part of the device name.
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Old 09-29-2009, 06:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks very much for taking the time to respond in detail. Regards.
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Old 09-29-2009, 07:37 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I have a Bold and envy the user interface of the iphone, just too cool. I've read a lot about it and have a ipod touch but a couple of things keep me with a BB. Haven't seen anything about the 9900 in months; I don't see any reason to upgrade to the 9700 but would get a 9900. Sliders, I've had a couple by HTC and typing isn't nearly as easy, after time the slide isn't smooth and the phone starts to feel loose.

If I want to run iphone OS, buy an iphone. I'm sure Apple is also looking at keypads as it tries to expand into the corporate world as RIM is looking at touchscreens to appeal to consumers. Matching the hardware and software give the best user experience; look at Blackberry Connect running on WM, it works OK but you don't get the RIM experience. I think this is MS' biggest problem with WM phones. The hardware HTC sells is really second rate. The touchscreens are resistive so you don't get good control, you can't see the screen outside, the phone voice quality is somewhere between poor and bad. WM, now showing its age, really suffers on bad hardware.

Not sure if the RIM App Store is a flop. Developing software for the BB is much more difficult than for WM or iphone. Plenty written about it, do a google search. BoyGenius had an article about the RIM OS needing a serious upgrade, not the window dressing 5.0 is bringing.

For iphone user comments check these forums.cingular.com and howardforums.com. Also, since you're using your BB for business, do a search for "iphone multitask" here's one article:
Editorial: Taking the iPhone 3GS off the job market

The media loves Apple and rarely gives it bad press even though you can go into Apple's forums and see plenty of user complaints with basic hardware issues. My MacBook Air, like most others, overheats, slows down and the wireless is horrible. Now it just pretty much sits on a shelf.

I think the ipod is a terrific device (I owned three or four), but the iphone again is "old Apple" where any ability to get outside the Apple world is impossible. No microSD card, Apples App Store rejecting software like Google Voice, no user replaceable battery. The phone itself, from what users have said, doesn't have as good RF as a BB, the voice quality isn't as good and the ear piece volume is low; this is a killer for me as I use my phone on noisy streets in Manhattan and ditched the AT&T Fuze after two days - same issue. I use two batteries in my Bold probably two to three days a week, I wouldn't make it with an iphone.

The cool UI doesn't outweigh the downside. If I could switch my SIM between an iphone and BB, I might consider getting one as a weekend phone.
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Old 09-29-2009, 07:50 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I have both.

Email is much better on the BB since that is what it was designed to do. And the BB is a much better business tool, although the iPhone is getting there.

The iPhone is much better at browsing and PIM type stuff - contacts and calendar, although my BB is pretty good.

IMHO it really boils down to what you need the device to do and how you need it to do it.

Business tool/email, the bB hands down.

Other functions, iPhone.
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Old 09-29-2009, 07:53 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The iPhone's roots are in the iPod product matrix. So multimedia is going to shine on an iPhone. That's clearly the device's prime focus. Of course it also does phone calls.

The BlackBerry is a business-grade communications device that also happens to do some multimedia stuff. But BlackBerry's pedigree is clearly in email.
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Old 09-29-2009, 08:10 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Again, I appreciate the responders taking the time to provide thoughtful feedback. I have not previously used forums too much, but appreciate the responsiveness of this one.

As a follow-up rumination, I suppose the underlying question (N.B., an unanswerable question certainly, but basically the question any longterm value investor has to ask himself) what my initial queries were driving at is, if one assumes that handheld devices will eventually (next few years or decade +, who knows) reach a convergence point whereby music, video, phone, email and other media services are seemlessly run through a single device, what would the current product mix of RIM, Apple or anyone else for that matter suggest the preferred platform would be?

I suppose that, as a longterm BB user I am excited by the idea of a touchscreen BB that in some manner approximates the Iphone's media features while still retaining the emailing advantages. This notwithstanding that RIM's CEO acknoweldged on the last investor call that RIM is seeking (like everyone else) to expand horizons and that all cell phone designers are effectively going through a land grab phase in terms of market demographics. If the BB could be designed in such a way that it would placate those among us who would wish for some of the Iphone's sexier aspects but who need the email functionality of the BB for work purposes, I would imagine there is a considerable swath of the enduser public that would be lured away to RIM on a more permanent basis (and not, e.g., double dip and own both).

In any event, just musing and thanks for your time. Will probably stay invested in RIM and see where that train takes me.

Regards.

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Old 09-29-2009, 08:48 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seraphim123 View Post
As a follow-up rumination, I suppose the underlying question (N.B., an unanswerable question certainly, but basically the question any longterm value investor has to ask himself) what my initial queries were driving at is, if one assumes that handheld devices will eventually (next few years or decade +, who knows) reach a convergence point whereby music, video, phone, email and other media services are seemlessly run through a single device, what would the current product mix of RIM, Apple or anyone else for that matter suggest the preferred platform would be?
Probably Apple. Though RIM has been working very hard to remain competitive. As you've said, they need to improve the app store. They also need to significantly improve the BB browser. Media on a BB works but it's clearly not as much of a priority on the BB as it is with the iPhone.

The tricky thing here is that the market doesn't always decide based on technical merit. You can debate which product is "best" but that might not matter. Interface design, product design, trendiness/image, marketing and other factors will also affect the success of a product.

Last edited by takeshi : 09-29-2009 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 09-29-2009, 09:11 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Seraphim123,

Your comments on touchscreen keyboards tell me that you don't have much experience with them - or at least not a good one. To address a question ifonline raised, the Storm KB does have multi-touch support. That is the way you select text for copy/paste.

I really like my Storm, but I am chomping at the bit for a Storm 2. I don't believe there is anything inherently wrong with a touchscreen keyboard. It's just a matter of developing a good implementation. From the videos I've seen, the Storm 2 could be just that.

Regardless, to address you basic question, I think there are 2 questions to consider, both of which have been addressed in this thread in one fashion or another.

1) How easy is it to develop apps for the platform? I have been a software developer for over 25 years. I believe this is key. I believe this is why Microsoft has been so successful as a company. They make it *very* easy for developers to get the tools and the information they need to develop apps. And the tools make it very easy to actually do the development. I have never looked into developing apps for the iPhone or BB OS, so I can't comment on the relative ease of either. I did note an earlier poster that said that it is a lot harder to develop for the BB.

2) Analysis of the OS. What I see is that the BB OS has a solid infrastructure that just hasn't been built out the way that the iPhone has. The BB OS has a serious concrete foundation, but with very business-like window dressings. In contrast, the iPhone has more like an off-grade wooden foundation up on concrete blocks, but with lots of pretty window treatments and trim work.

In the long run, from my perspective as a long time professional developer and entrepeneur, I would bet my money on the solid foundation over the pretty window treatments. In software, it's a lot easier to add the trimmings to a solid infrastructure, then to add key, core functionality to a kernel that already has a big pile of application software written on top of it that all has to continue to be supported in future revs.
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