There have been numerous leaked videos of the upcoming Blackberry 9800 slider.  The device brings a new form factor to the Blackberry, but most importantly incorporates a brand new OS, 6.0.  The combination of 6.0 and the 9800’s touch screen mimics the experience found in competing phones running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but is it enough?

I have blogged before about how I believe that RIM has to re-write their OS to become competitive in the rapidly changing and multimedia-centric smartphone market.  OS 6.0 represents RIM’s strongest move yet in this direction, but is still based on their traditional Java OS.  Crackberry.com has links to sample videos of the new phone/OS combination in the links below.  (Note: that some of these videos have been removed, and most can be found here.)

These videos show an impressive improvement in Blackberry functionality and features, but I am not convinced it is enough.  If you look at the market, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android battle on hardware and software features.  They are constantly trying one-up each other with enhancements like video-conferencing (iPhone) or wireless hotspot (Android).  RIM is behind on touchscreen functionality and 6.0 is a catch up release for them.  It breaks no new ground but rather brings RIM a touch interface that is similar to what Android and iOS have been offering since inception.  Where is the innovation in the platform?

I continue to believe that RIM must do something to gain a competitive edge.  Their story of “we are best for email and business” still rings true, but is being aggressively attacked by Apple and Android who continue to roll out enterprise features.  In my opinion, the problem for RIM is that they are tied to an outdated Java-based OS that was not designed for today’s advanced smartphones.  It was architected when email was cutting edge and no one considered things like touch interfaces or multimedia content.  I believe that it is time for a complete rewrite of RIM’s OS to compete more effectively with the other platforms.

Fortunately, RIM has some time.  The latest market share research suggests that they have 42% market share as compared to 25% for Apple and 9% for Google/Android.  However, these numbers were before the iPhone 4 release and you would imagine Apple’s share increasing.  The challenge is that as customers’ contracts expire, they will look at other phone options and the shortcomings of the RIM offerings may drive a platform switch.

In summary, RIM has to do something and I believe that OS 6.0 is not enough.  Their competitors are innovating faster and RIM must find a way to at least maintain a parity if not a leadership positioning.  I believe that their current software architecture is holding them back and must be replaced.  Without a radical change, RIM is destined to see declining market share as the competition entices their consumers.

Disclosure: I am a Blackberry user and have owned 3 BB’s over the last 6 years.  They have worked reliably and consistently, but I am frustrated with RIM’s lack of innovation.

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