BlackBerry and iOS: Why First Movers Often Lose

Research In Motion was was ahead of everyone to the cloud. In fact, BlackBerrys were cloud devices long before we knew enough to call it “the cloud.” But failure to capitalize on that first-mover advantage has left RIM struggling to catch up in a game that it, in many ways, started.

Since the first BlackBerry, the 850 in 1999, was basically a two-way pager, RIM understood from the beginning that its success depended entirely on back-end services. The BlackBerry was a platform in a way that no other phone approached (Palm, in its heyday, came closest.) For a long time, the RIM back end outclassed anything else in the field, especially when a BlackBerry device was connected to a Microsoft Exchange messaging system through a BlackBerry Enterprise Server. When you got a new BlackBerry, the IT department sent you an authentication code. You ran the enterprise Activation app on the device, entered the code, and within a few minutes all of your mail messages, contacts, calendar information, todo lists, and notes appeared on your BlackBerry through the magic of the cloud. Over time, RIM added additional services, such as the ability to deploy custom app data and corporate documents via BES.

What RIM failed to do was to bring the slick, it-just-works beauty of an enterprise BlackBerry setup to consumers. As a client for a standard internet mail account, a BlackBerry is somewhat worse than average. Real-time, over-the-air calendar and contact sync required kludgey third-party solutions. And, of course, application development lagged far behind the offerings for iPhone and Android. Its biggest attractions for consumers, especially the text-centric, were outstanding keyboards and the excellent BlackBerry Messenger messaging system. But other hardware has caught up with blackBerrys in text entry and surpassed them in all other regards.

Today, platform religion is standard in the smartphone/tablet world. But the cloud components of Apple’s iOS5 and the tight integration among iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, and Macs should put it in a class by itself. In one sense, Apple is 10 years late to this party, but once again, it has proved that getting there best is a lot more important than getting there first.




3 Responses to “BlackBerry and iOS: Why First Movers Often Lose”

  1. Rich Says:

    The enterprise market is a large one, and RIM has a long history of being the favorite mobile in that market because of the BlackBerry’s superior security. Just as the enterprise is not a must-have for Apple, I’m not convinced the consumer is a must-have for RIM, as long as they satisfy their own market.

  2. swildstrom Says:

    I used to agree. The problem is that Apple has been making significant inroads into the enterprise market. Apple doesn’t talk about it very much, but they have worked hard to make iOS devices acceptable to the enterprise, especially as Exchange clients, with extensive policy support. Apple’s Exchange support is better than Windows Phone, much better than Android, and nearly equal to RIM.

    BES still provides a more extensive suite to IT administrators, but the lead is shrinking fast and possession of the enterprise is no longer guaranteed. PlayBook could help hold on, but they have to get a lot more aggressive at filling out the applications.

  3. Mike Bauer Says:

    First Movers – I did some work with a Spanish company once and they told me that in Spain, there is a saying (roughly translated) that first movers can strike twice. Meaning that if you are the first, you can parlay that market advantage more easily.

    RIM, which had a commanding lead at one time failed to take advantage of their market position which with some TLC might have been insurmountable for many more years.

    RIM is now forced to play the oldest IT card in the world; security. We all now from experience that a corporate IT departments hole card is always security. While there are legitimate concerns with Android and IOS devices they can be overcome. RIM is now whispering into the ear of Corp security now to try and stem the tide. Won’t work much longer. I still use my BB but the company pays for it and in comparison to an IPhone or some of the better Android devices it is a poor device.

    Too bad, RIM has wasted a wonderful position, but they made a lot and they have good services – perhaps new leadership will get them focused on the market opportunities rather than defense of their current market?

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