RIM’s Failed Hail Mary

BlackBerry 10, which was released today at BlackBerry World in Orlando, was RIM’s last chance. It was their Hail Mary pass, to save the company. You’d think they would have spent the time to make sure they got it right, and that they would have focused on radically improving the user interface and experience to bring BlackBerry up to par with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7. It is almost impossible to comprehend, but they didn’t do that.

Instead, they released something uninspiring, uninteresting, and unfinished. That no one at RIM had the guts and authority to recognize the seriousness of their situation–the company is literally dying!–and say, “Hey, maybe we should wait until BlackBerry 10 is awesome before we release it,” is an ultimate demonstration of how RIM’s culture will lead to its now inevitable demise. This is what happens when the sales people are in charge.

Sure, BlackBerry 10 is being released as a developer preview today, and RIM is being very clear about how it’s “alpha” software. But really, who cares? The things that RIM’s designers should have been focusing on, like innovating on fundamental user interactions, should have already been present long ago, as a guide for building RIM’s internal apps. BlackBerry 10 is boring. It’s devoid of any finesse, and it has no character. It is flat. It doesn’t feel physical, even though it is. The small size of some screen elements, especially in the settings areas, are a testament to how poorly thought out the OS is on a high level.

These are huge issues, of course, but they are nothing compared to something else that caught my attention during the introduction keynote. The horrific course of events that must have occurred for this feature to be developed is hard to think about, but BlackBerry 10 has a radically new camera that lets you step backwards in time after you’ve taken a photo. This is cool, and maybe it’s even a worthwhile research project, but who in their right mind, when faced with RIM’s current crisis, would spend the resources to design, build, and perfect a camera as complex as that?

Probably the salespeople. But no matter how it came into existence, the camera shows that RIM is focused on the wrong things. Despite a complete management overhaul, and several embarrassing delays, nothing has changed. BlackBerry 10 is not a revolutionary operating system. RIM has failed once again.

 
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