By Steve Green on Fri, 11/21/2008
There is a tremendous buzz in the tech industry about the release of the BlackBerry Storm today which will be sold by Verizon Wireless exclusively. The Storm is a new creation from Research in Motion that is the first touch screen BlackBerry that also has a unique tactile feedback function when you press on the screen. With the staggering amount of press this device is receiving, you’d think it was the hottest item for the holidays. Something Verizon hopes will in fact happen and finally knock the Apple iPhone off of its perch for the first time.
It seems that nearly every mobile phone manufacturer is lining up to try and take a swipe at the venerable iPhone and its lofty position as the number-one smartphone on the planet. Even handset maker LG is giving it the old college try by releasing its own smartphone for the first time, the Incite. These smartphone hopefuls often try to do too much by attempting to cash in on the perceived shortcomings of the iPhone. You know, the features Apple did not include such as, voice dialing, stereo Bluetooth, document editing and even the simple copy and paste function.
Most of these rushed-to-market iPhone clones have and will continue to miss the mark for one simple reason -- marketing. The iPhone succeeds where others fail for many reasons but one reason stands firm. None of the competitors have the Apple name behind them. Apple has a reputation for creating unique and tantalizing products and has been marketing them very successfully for years now, something the other makers simply can’t claim. The other manufacturers are just that, they make lots of stuff very fast and do very little marketing of their own. They don’t have CEO’s that are highly visible and talented the way Steve Jobs is nor do they have the vision it takes to create a product that worms its way into your life like Apple does every year. While Apple products integrate together, the others simply make a product that stands alone and is quickly forgotten about after the next model comes out and the two won’t be compatible anyway.
Research in Motion, is a company that has a tremendous track record of successes in the smartphone market, much longer than Apple has, and they have a devoted following particularly in the business arena. When RIM makes a new product, it gets noticed. RIM has positioned itself with vendors to create applications that will runs on their devices to extend the usefulness of their phones and they tend to be very sticky applications that keep users coming back mainly because they have to. This puts RIM in a far better position to compete with Apple than any other stand-alone manufacturer. But does any of this really mean the iPhone is in trouble?
I believe that the Storm will see its successes but not how some envision it. First, the foregone conclusion is that this device will be an iPhone killer. I doubt highly that we will see people flooding eBay with used iPhones and hordes of people standing in long 3+ hour lines at the Verizon store just to get their hands on a Storm. The iPhone and the Storm are two very different devices and appeal to very different crowds. The iPhone is just plain sexy. It’s cool, it has only four buttons and an incredible touch screen. It’s media centric and is so simple to use that even a child can figure it out in a short time of playing with it, believe me I know. The Storm appeals more to tech savvy types and people that already use BlackBerry products. In fact, I am not even convinced that hardcore BlackBerry users will be ready to hand in their trusty unit for something as radically new as the Storm. The Storm is also in the unenviable position of having to compete with its own branded products by RIM who has released several new phones just in the last month.
Lastly, the one thing that Apple has that just can’t be ignored is iTunes. iTunes is simply too well established and too well integrated into the entire Apple product line to be upset by some ambitious handset maker. The iconic iPod has stood up against literally thousands of copycat music players over the years and continues to stand tall for the same reason that the iPhone will not be undone by the Storm; nobody else has iTunes or anything close to it. The iPhone App Store helps cement this even more in keeping users from switching. RIM will offer applications for the Storm and even the new G1 from HTC has an application store but the jury is still out on how many developers will develop applications for either device at a pace that will keep users interested.
In the end, it’s most likely that the only device that the iPhone 3G will be competing with is the next generation iPhone the moment it’s announced.