So, the new Blackberry devices and their new operating system are out. Proponents are expecting it to return RIM to the top of the smartphone heap. The more realistic, however, see this device for what it is: a last gasp attempt for RIM to keep Blackberry relevant in a world that they were a big part of (globally) or virtually owned (in North America). In the areas that matter to consumers, the Z10 and BB10 aren’t “better enough” to matter. Sure, the underpinnings are finally a modern operating system, with modern frameworks and tools. At the end of the day, it’s just another touchscreen minitablet that runs some apps. The details may vary, but the general bits are “more of the same”.
Okay, first, never say never. What I’m about to say could turn out to be completely wrong. But I am a big believer of using history as a guide for the future, at least in the general sense. And I am not convinced that either Blackberry 10 or the forthcoming Tizen are going to do anything to unseat Android and iOS as the smartphone platforms of choice (let alone the upcoming Ubuntu for smartphones). And it won’t matter how technically superior either are to the incumbents, and it won’t matter than one (Tizen) is being backed and promoted by the largest manufacturers of smartphones in the world, Samsung. And it certainly doesn’t matter what technologists feel should be the case (read the comments in this Wired article to get an idea of what technologists think about this) You do not disrupt incumbents by building a slightly better variant of what they already make.
I saw an interesting piece on Microsoft trying to woo Apple iOS developers over to Windows Phone. This got me thinking about developer platforms, and how some companies have limited themselves by limiting their development tools. The idea that I’ve been mulling for a while: if you want developers to build for your device, make your tools available to them on the platform they use. What does this mean? If you want iOS developers, you need to make sure your development system is available on OS X. It also applies in other directions.