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RIM is far, far behind its two main competitors, Apple and Google, but not entirely without hope. If RIM can bake the right mix of features and functionality into BlackBerry 10, the platform has a fighting chance. Here's what RIM and BlackBerry 10 need to deliver:
1. Modern User Interface. If there is one thing that was miserable about BlackBerry 7 and earlier versions of RIM's operating system, it was the crummy, list-driven user interface. RIM purchased The Astonishing Tribe to help give BB10 a fresh look, and it is possible they have succeeded. Early previews of the operating system provided by RIM reveal a modern architecture and lots of gesture-based interactions. As long as those gesture-based controls are intuitive and function without problems, RIM has a chance of finding fans of the UI.
[ Are CIOs ready to give up on RIM? See BlackBerry 10 Has This CIO Singing Taylor Swift. ]
2. Feature Parity. BlackBerry 10 has to go toe-to-toe with Android, iOS and Windows Phone in core features. Those include native social networking support at a platform level, video chatting over cellular, usable camera software, a fast browser, multitasking, controllable notifications and alerts, and dependable cloud-based backups.
3. Excellent Hardware. It won't be enough for RIM to deliver new form factors alone. Though RIM's hardware has always been of good quality, the first BlackBerry 10 devices need to be superlative in every way. They need pixel-dense screens, LTE 4G, excellent cameras and good battery life. Android smartphones are available in such an incredible array of sizes, types and quality that nothing but the best is going to convince Google phone types to switch back to BlackBerry.
4. Marquee Apps. RIM has been on a warpath to cultivate the right selection of applications for BB10. The company has predicted that there will be about 70,000 apps in BlackBerry World at launch, with more to follow. As the saying goes, this is a case where quality will matter more than quantity. Apps BB10 absolutely must have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Spotify, LinkedIn, Skype, Amazon, eBay, Fandango, Pandora, Box/DropBox and, yes, games such as Angry Birds and Temple Run. Mapping, navigation and search apps will be important, too.
5. Rich Ecosystem. If there's one thing Apple, Google and Microsoft all have, it is established ecosystems of not only devices, but operating systems, apps, games, music, movies and television shows. RIM has added music and video content to BlackBerry World, but it remains to be seen how solid its content library will be. RIM claims to have support from all the major music and movie studios. It will sell music that is free of DRM shackles and TV shows will be available the day after they are aired. RIM hasn't said anything about pricing, however, and how transportable content will be – will it work only on BlackBerries, or also on PlayBook tablets and PCs? The content has to be available, easy to find, and -- most importantly -- easy to pay for. Direct carrier billing would be a good place to start.
6. Perfect Performance. RIM cannot afford to launch BlackBerry 10 with bugs. Although I understand that it is almost impossible to ship a version 1.0 operating system bug free, RIM has to overcome the odds and get it right on the first try. If the first wave of BlackBerry 10 devices freeze, crash, poke or have any performance problems of any kind, it will be a disaster for RIM. The hardware can't drop wireless signals, the screens can't have yellow spots, the battery can't drain in three hours flat, and the camera can't take purple pictures. One bad stumble on the way out of the gate, and RIM might never recover.
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