A couple of weeks back, we posted a news story about Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak sharing his thoughts about BlackBerry and their switch to Android over the long run. However, one of the things that BlackBerry CEO Mr. Thorston Heins kept repeating before the launch of their new Z10 handset was choosing to build their own OS instead of adopting somebody else’s. While this definitely gives BlackBerry a lot of control, I can’t help but wonder if things would have been more rosy for the company had they chosen to adopt Android. Let’s try and explore some of the pros and cons of this debate.
1) Get to market faster
The constant delays in launching BlackBerry 10 have, no doubt, caused BlackBerry to lose market share. Back in 2010, BlackBerry was pretty much tied with Android in terms of global market share but 2011 and 2012 saw significant drops. If BlackBerry had chosen Android over developing BB10 (which still feels a bit incomplete because it is a 1.0 product), they might have been able to bring new devices to the market a year earlier which would have subsequently translated into loosing lesser market share.
2) Look and feel of the OS
One of the features that BlackBerry likes to distinguish itself in BB10 is through a button-less gesture based navigation. Android can be skinned as shown by companies like HTC, Samsung and Sony and I think that The Astonishing Tribe (TAT) team and BlackBerry is very capable of creating a very BB10-like experience on Android. For example, Amazon’s Kindle runs on Android but is completely different as far as looks and moving around is concerned. Similarly, a new custom ROM for Android called Paranoid Android adopts a PIE interface that allows you to use gestures for moving back or to the home screen
BlackBerry has time and again shown it’s hesitance in bringing BBM to other platforms and switching to Android might have opened a Pandora’s box. However, that does not need to be the case. Traditionally, every BlackBerry device comes with a unique PIN and that is what BlackBerry can use to restrict BBM service to – no PIN means no BBM. Newer devices like the Z10 could’ve been equipped with a special chip which holds the PIN making it almost impossible for others to copy it.
4) Apps, Apps and more Apps
Microsoft, with it’s huge resources, is having a tough time getting popular applications on their Windows Phone platform so you can imagine the tough challenge the BlackBerry will face with native apps. Yes, an Android player exists but honestly, so far the only Android apps I’ve seen aren’t exactly in the Top 10 lists. That might change when BlackBerry updates the Android Player to 4.1 but had BlackBerry chosen Android, they would have not had to worry about any such issues and would possibly have had a clear lead over Windows Mobile and every other Android manufacturer targeting the #3 spot- something that BlackBerry CEO is also eyeing for.
This is probably the big area that BlackBerry would have had to compromise. There is no denying that BlackBerry is synonymous with security but considering that US military is opening up to deploying Android, I see this less of an issue in the upcoming months. BlackBerry should have enough talent in-house to secure Android to similar levels as their BlackBerry devices and using a custom chip, they would have certainly been able to offer military grade BlackBerry devices.
6) That killer keyboard
While majority of the end-users have moved on to full touch phones, there is certainly a big segment that prefer a hardware keyboard and nobody does that as well as BlackBerry. They pretty much own the market for handsets with dedicated keyboards and bringing that to Android would certainly have a lot of advantage for BlackBerry
So there you have it- some compelling reasons, in my opinion, on why BlackBerry might have benefitted by switching to Android. Do you have a Z10 and have wondered the same thing? Would love to know your thoughts.