Saturday, June 30, 2012

BlackBerry When?

It seems that most of the time Apple just needs to keep on its current trajectory and let its competitors make error after error as they try to catch up.

Most catastrophic of all is BlackBerry who have just announced another delay to its new platform - BB10 - until after the Christmas season.

As a software engineer myself I find it impossible to understand how BlackBerry can blunder so badly. I can only conclude that the previous directors, and maybe the current ones, do not understand software. And BlackBerry is a software company as much as a hardware company.

The thing about software is that it is enormously difficult to develop quality software. Failed software projects litter the history of computing.

One way to mitigate the risk is to continue with a working product and make incremental changes. This is how Apple works with iOs and OSX. The problem with the incremental approach is that it is rather dull and developers love nothing more than building their own solutions from scratch.

Throwing away your old product to build a new one is described by respected software guru Joel Spolsky as the worst strategic decision a software company can make - see here.

If you must develop a completely new product then you continue developing the old product in parallel so that you still have something to ship if the new project is delayed. This is how Apple managed the transition to Intel processors.

It seems that the BlackBerry management were unaware of the enormous risk involved in moving to a new platform and have put all their eggs in the BB10 basket.

So now, while Apple and Android are devouring their market share, they have nothing exciting to ship until next year!

It is no good talking about what a great platform BB10 will be - most customers do not care about geeky things like HTML 5 and Flash. What customers are interesting in is the form factor, the speed of the phone, the number of apps available and the size of the screen.

With that in mind get this - BB10 will not run existing BlackBerry apps!

From an investment point of view I would not go anywhere near RIMM. It may look cheap based on some investment metrics but this ship is nowhere near turning around. Ugly!


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