Everything Old is New at RIM - Wait-a-Thon


Pop quiz, hotshot:

You're the top dog in smart phones with "push" email technology so killer people have likened it to crack. But last year a new kid showed up with a glitzy multi-touch interface and media to die for, and sucked all the buzz out of your room. What do you do? What. Do. You. Do?

If you answered, out innovate them, come up with next year's "it" device, you're correct. You're also clearly (and unfortunately) not the brain-trust at RIM.

We've already talked about Apple licensing Microsoft's ActiveSync, looking to eat into RIM's Blackberry business dominance. We've even made fun of the new old-look Blackberry 9000 (yep, that's the new BB pictures above. What, you thought it was the Meizu?). But this cuts deeper into the industry.

For years Palm pushed out tepid evolutionary designs. RIM, while having copied a little Palm look-and-feel at times, has made tentative flirtations, for good or for ill, with innovation in devices like the Pearl. For the most part, however, everyone has been content to regurgitate and duplicate. Everyone but the iPhone.

When Steve Jobs pulled the iPhone from his pocket at Macworld 2007 it was unlike anything we'd seen in smart phones before, but also instantly Apple. It was a revolution.

Palm needs to do this so badly the company hinges on it.

RIM does as well. Sure, they're in great shape. They move tons of units to an enormous, addicted user base. They own the market. But they no longer lead it.

Copying Apple's design is superficial but it's a sign that RIM is following. They are going where Apple has been. They are surrendering mindshare and, in doing so, surrendering leadership of the market.

Sure, Apple competes with Apple. They cancelled the mega-popular iPod Mini only to release the super-mega-popular Nano. And they'll push themselves on smart phones all alone if they have to. But every industry needs competition.

WinMob 7 is still vaporware and is also targeting where the iPhone was. That's Microsoft's MO. Palm's Nova needed to be out 2 years ago, if not earlier. They've long ago lost the drive that made them the original innovator. That leaves RIM (and perhaps Nokia).

Hotshots, you need to do better.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Everything Old is New at RIM - Wait-a-Thon


I like Palm OS but 3.5" screen is the new standard for cellphones, iPhone makes everything look old and unbig. Not interested a third OS (WinMob) since I bought a MBP while I am waiting for 2nd gen iPhone hardware. I am not the one to say Game over... but all cellphone designers all need to act like iPhone was not an unrepeatable Alien concept.

I guess as long as it sells good, they'll always come up with off the wall designs that don't conform to the "conventional"

I have never used a RIM product and it's not looking like this newest addition will sway me in any way to change that decision anytime soon.

The BB looks like a Razor keyboard on a smartphone, and I don't think that is going to work. If you are going to have a physical keyboard then you probably want buttons you can actually feel, if you are going to have buttons flush then you may as well use the space for a bigger screen utilizing the space better (then the keyboard is only there when needed).

Never been a fan of BB... girlfriend has one... sister, dad, etc... They are way too boring for me. Sorry.

I like Palm OS but 3.5" screen is the new standard for cellphones
LOL... Five years ago, I was using the XDA 2 with 3.5" screen and people said I carried a brick. Because of the Apple effect, it becomes the new standard.:confused:

GFONG, fess up, it as a 3.5" *cube* wasn't it?? :)
(The iPhone feels no larger in the hand than my Palms or a BB, and actually seems to disappear in the pocket -- I've panicked a couple times thinking I left it behind!)

neither RIM nor MS can compete with Apple on style or usability. The thought is laughable. They should stick to what they do best, for RIM thats unannounced outages, for MS with WinMo thats... Um...

wow, nice, look at that screen! and all those buttons! it has endless options and I bet it has a stylus. I can organize, access the internet, make phone calls. This is the greatest phone...wait, I have an iPhone...nevermind.

ya I just used a BB for the first time this weekend it was my dads he had just got it. So I went to crackberry.com to get some ideas on how to set it up. They have some pretty good beginner guides that was nice but still no way in h€!! I would buy one. When I got the iPhone there was no need for any kind of how to because the entire thing was so nicely laid out and simple to use.

I played with my friend BB Pearl and didn't like the keyboard. Then the iPhone came. My friend and I (coming from a Treo 650) switched without regrets. For there is no reason to get a BB unless you need it for your job. They're too bussiness like for regular users.

I was wondering- is there a reason businesses go with the blackberry rather than the iPhone now? I'd imagine the touch screen is so much easier to type with than the little keyboard, are any companies switching? Or is it too expensive?

I was wondering- is there a reason businesses go with the blackberry rather than the iPhone now? I'd imagine the touch screen is so much easier to type with than the little keyboard, are any companies switching? Or is it too expensive?
QUERTY keyboards on phones are a good thing if the phone is being used for things such as email which is the BlackBerry's bread and butter and also the reason that BBs are chosen over iPhones in the business world.

I could never stand the keyboard on my Palm -- the only thing worse was the Blackberry's. My big, mushy fingers were forever messing up on those hard, rounded(?!) tic-tac keys, and when I sprained my wrist, it hurt too much to press the little @#%!ers.
So far, iPhone is much easier to type with for me, and because there's no pressure needed, I could use it even with a sprained wrist.
Businesses are driven by IT people who buy based on promised (not always delivered) features, budget, and how easily they believe they can manage/maintain things. iPhone is an end-user purposed device. IT could usually give a $#!t about end users.
ActiveSync, however, may help.

It's probably just me, but as much as I love new technology I don't want the latest gadgets shoved down my throat and to be brainwashed into thinking I absolutely NEED them to be cool and to "keep up with the Joneses". A simple, basic ANYTHING for me works.

Well, if you have to have a Blackberry (because that's all your bosses will give you), then that looks like quite a nice one to have. But for personal use, esp. if your main focus isn't typing emails, then the iPhone (last year's model at that) still beats this "new" phone hands down.
Can't wait to see iPhone gen 2!