If trash talk can sell phones, then BlackBerry has a bright future. In the last two days, CEO Thorsten Heins has called the iPhone an old operating system, said Apple is losing its abilility to innovate, and has said that neither Windows Phone nor Android are true mobile computing platforms. Can he back up the trash talk with results?
Heins told the Australian Financial Review that the iPhone, when first released, was innovative, but that time has passed it by. He said:
"History repeats itself again I guess...the rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don't innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly. The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about is now five years old."
In particular, he dinged what he claimed was the iPhone's inability to perform true multitasking, contrasting it with the BlackBerry, which he said is a true multitasker.
Heins is in Australia to promote the launch of the latest BlackBerry phones, and during his public address about the launch, he also went out of his way to take on Windows Phone and Android. He said that his company had considered extending its various BlackBerry services for enterprises to both platforms, but ultimately decided against it. Computerworld Australia reports that Heins said "We really thought hard about it," but opted not to because they "are not mobile computing platforms."
What does that mean? He considers them stripped-down, and not fully functional operating systems. Last month he explained to Reuters in an interview:
"The [BlackBerry] architecture we have built is true mobile computing architecture. It's not a downgraded PC operating system. It is a whole new innovation built from scratch. It's built for mobile."
I'm not sure all this trash-talk will gain much for BlackBerry. The company is in the midst of a long, downward spiral, and this kind of public criticism of competitors won't necessarily go down well with the big companies he's trying to court.
Heins can hype BlackBerry and denigrate the iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android all he wants as part of his launch strategy. But the numbers are not in his favor. A recent IDC report found that in the last year Windows Phone shipments jumped 150%, while BlackBerry's fell 43%. According to the report, Windows Phone/Windows Mobile had a 2.6% market share in the fourth quarter of 2012, up from 1.5% a year previous. BlackBerry's sales headed the other way, falling from 8.1% market share in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 3.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012. A Gartner report found similar results.
More recently, a Gartner analyst said that BlackBerry will have less than a 5% smartphone market share through 2016. Gartner analyst Van Baker blogged:
"Market conditions will make it extremely difficult for BlackBerry to rise above iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 platforms...The question is whether the new platform is sufficient to motivate the buyer to choose BlackBerry over the platforms they know."
Heins needs to realize that bluster doesn't sell products. I agree with the Gartner analyst; a year and more from now, well after the BlackBerry launch, BlackBerry still won't have made dramatic gains against its competitors.