In late June, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) said it would delay its next-generation BlackBerry 10 mobile OS until the first quarter of 2013. RIM had previously stated the OS would be released in 2012. The delay came at a particularly tough time, with RIM bleeding global smartphone market share to rivals including Google and Apple.
At the time, the delay was clearly bad news for the Canadian company -- which is trying to maintain its number three spot in the global mobile market -- because it meant BlackBerry 10 smartphones wouldn't be available for the 2012 holiday season. Today, following an underwhelming iPhone 5 launch from Apple yesterday, the BlackBerry 10 delay seems even more significant—and not in a good way. Here's why.
In a "flash poll" of 1,135 Americans conducted yesterday just after the iPhone 5 event by online-coupon website couponcodes4u.com, 57 percent of respondents said they were "not impressed" with the iPhone 5 launch event. The same percentage of respondents said they were "disappointed" with the iPhone 5 tech specs and design, though 45 percent also said they still plan to buy the device as soon as it is released. (The poll and its findings are admittedly questionable because couponcodes4u.com didn't provide any information on methodology. The poll's findings sound about right to me, though, and they mirror the reaction on Twitter following the iPhone 5 event, so it still seems worthy of a mention.)
In other words, Apple didn't exactly "wow" consumer with the iPhone 5. Sure, it will still probably be the best-selling smartphone of all time, because it’s a solid improvement over the iPhone 4S thanks to LTE support, a larger display and a faster processor, among other things. But consumers, particularly those who don't already use an iPhone, really aren't as impressed with the iPhone 5 as they may have been if Apple released some unique new features or hardware design.
That disappointment represents a huge opportunity for Apple's competitors, including Google and the myriad of Android hardware makers, Microsoft and its device partners, and, yes, RIM, to jump in and wow consumers where Apple did not. New Android devices with unique features—huge displays (think: Galaxy Note), ridiculously long battery life (think: DROID RAZR MAXX HD), etc.—are announced almost every other week. Microsoft is about to drop its latest OS, Windows Phone 8, and Samsung and Nokia already unveiled WP8 devices. (HTC is also expected to announce WP8 handsets later this month.)
But RIM's BlackBerry 10 OS won't be available until 2013. That means the Canadian company will completely miss the opportunity created by Apple's underwhelming iPhone 5 launch.
I spoke with RIM's CEO Thorsten Heins in July, and I asked him specifically about the impact product delays have had on RIM. He acknowledged the problem and the effects of past delays, but downplayed the latest BlackBerry 10 delay, saying it could actually help RIM. (Read why in my full Q&A with Heins.)
I understood Heins's point at the time, but I didn't necessarily agree. And after Apple's iPhone 5 announcement, I feel certain that RIM would have been much better off releasing its first BlackBerry 10 devices in time for the holidays.