Over the last year and a half, a few dozen…dozen would-be “iPhone-killers” have emerged to take on Apple’s little widescreen iPod/phone/Internet browsing device that could. And illustrious these phones have been, ranging from the underwhelming Samsung Instinct to the equally underwhelming LG Dare and even the moderately adequate HTC Touch Pro.
And now, as dynamic Verizon pitchman Mike Lanman proves in this eternal launch video, RIM is throwing its Canadian hat (it’s flannel, with ear-laps) into the ring with the puzzling BlackBerry Storm. You will be shocked to learn that this amazing phone will “Take the market by <cue thunderbolt> STORM!”
Except that it probably won’t make any impact on the iPhone market. And that’s because Apple created a platform and RIM is building a product. Click through to read why.
Based on the blurry, lo-fi video above, the Storm will be a lot like a BlackBerry, only with a touchscreen and no keyboard. As a BlackBerry Pearl user, I have to admit that this completely puzzles me. Who on earth would ever buy any phone from RIM that isn’t optimized for fast messaging with a real keyboard? BlackBerry is better at sending and receiving corporate e-mail and calendaring applications than any other platform on the market, but the counterbalance to this is that the BlackBerry OS leaves everything else as an afterthought. The previous generation of BlackBerries were horrible phones. The current generation uses a trackball that works well for scrolling through e-mail and is a disaster as a web browsing interface. Virtually ever application for BlackBerry looks like an e-mail inbox. The entire BlackBerry platform is premised on the following: Push mail service, intuitive reading interface, fast keyboard.
So why would the company ever launch a device that’s going to be bad for e-mail in addition to being bad at everything else? No matter how well RIM has figured out a touchscreen keyboard, it will still be a virtual keyboard, and they aren’t as reliable as a physical interface. Based on another video of the device that has since been taken down, RIM also focused so much on providing tactile feedback from its virtual keyboard that the entire screen has to be pressed like a button to register a click. This will be nothing like typing on a BlackBerry, and will be barely better than typing on an iPhone, if at all.
So the keyboard will be worse than a typical BlackBerry — a strike at RIM’s strengths. The rest of the OS is what’s going to really make this a loser of an iPhone competitor. That’s because instead of developing a new operating system from scratch that’s optimized for multitouch interactions, RIM has adapted BlackBerry OS for touch. Other than the bigger screen and touching, the interface looks the same as on the BlackBerry Bold. And that means lots of moving your thumb down to click the contextual menu button to find necessary features instead of having them appear on-screen, as they do in the iPhone. It also means having no effective way to return to the home screen, an essential feature on any pure touch phone. BlackBerry’s HTML browser is brand new and untested thus far.
But the greatest mistake RIM is making? By viewing the BlackBerry Storm as a new product in an existing product line, the company is setting itself up to offer only applications that are optimized for its other devices and that technically function on the Storm but aren’t tailored to its strengths. But focusing on creating a product that could compete with the iPhone, RIM has missed the larger opportunity to launch a new platform.
Because that’s the real secret of the iPhone: It’s not just a product, though it’s a beautiful one. It’s not just an operating system, though it has the best mobile OS on the market. It’s not just a media phone optimized for iTunes. It’s a platform for growth that can be built upon and expanded for years to come. The iPhone SDK is its secret competitive advantage — putting great design tools in the hands of the masses and letting innovation flow.
All of the also-rans, RIM included, don’t have a big enough perspective in their struggles to catch up with the iPhone. They’re all trying to match the feature set that Apple has today. Apple’s waiting for third-party developers to come up with the killer apps of the next five years.
This is one Storm that might only sprinkle.
Video via Engadget.