Constructive Criticism – What I would do if I were Jim Balsillie

Constructive Criticism – What I would do if I were Jim Balsillie

Blackberry is in the news – a lot – these days.

And not for many good reasons, aside from the fact that they own 40% of the smartphone market as measured in handsets deployed.

But, after losing some 14% market share over the past 9 months to Apple iPhone and Google Android devices, it’s clear something has to be done to staunch the flow of departing customers.

In no particular order, and from a decidedly how-it’s-put-together bent, is my take on what is needed:

  • The browser must be improved. It is the single-most reason people move from the device to something else – making Blackberry devices good for phone calls and email only; because beyond that, the internet experience is nothing but painful.
  • In addition to secure communications – the number one reason businesses give for staying with Blackberry – they should have a consumer offering that does not require a PhD. in mobile communications to configure and maintain. A working, out of the box, Blackberry? Shudder the thought. Try explaining BES, BIS, WAP, WAP2, Direct/TCP, WiFi, and (soon) WiMax to your mom or Aunt Tilly. THAT’S what having a Blackberry today requires.
  • Pick a form factor going forward and stick with it. The marketing at this point is a nightmare. What’s the difference between the Tour, the Storm, the Pearl, the Curve, and the Bold? If you know the differences, you’ve got way the hell too much time on your hands.

From a development standpoint, I’ve already mentioned the fact that their current browser is not up to snuff (in fact, it’s pretty terrible, even the 5.0 rendering). But additionally, I would recommend the following:

  • If you’re claiming to be J2ME, really be J2ME. There’s nothing more frustrating that trying to use code from other J2ME projects and try to use it on your Blackberry, only to discover that everyone else’s Java is NOT Blackberry’s Java.
  • Support Apache Http for consumer applications. Not everyone needs to operate in the UAE (hey – even you guys don’t have to worry about this anymore!). In fact, the vast majority of people don’t need tunnel communications to checkin to Foursquare. You guys need a super easy way to connect to backend web services that need no super secret handshake.
  • Upgrading the UI library across the board. At present: No UI design tools, you can’t enable and disable controls without deleting them, and the properties that ARE there for setting UI operation don’t work as documented (I’m looking at you, isFocus()).
  • Allowing filtering on the debug console. Right now, I have to ignore the noise of all the Blackberry Debug logic as well as my own when trying to output trace information… rendering System.out.println almost useless.
  • Charging $200 for ten app submissions to Blackberry Marketplace… are you trying to keep apps out? Mission accomplished. Make the number of submissions to your app store free. The problem isn’t that too many people are trying to waste your time submitting apps – it’s that too few are even bothering.
  • Reduce the number of form factors going forward. No WAY is a developer gonna own every handset model representative of each form factor when there exists a cross-product matrix of dozens of  hardware-to-OS combinations. Not if they want to deliver a product in our lifetime.

I’ve got several more, but I’m trying to stay constructive in my recommendations.

In honesty, I believe it’s already game over for Blackberry. They aren’t going to change and everyone else is in a boat race pulling ahead in innovation.

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