I’ve been a BlackBerry user for a couple years – the first of their devices I used was the old workhorse 7290, and I’ve owned a Bold and now a Curve 8520. My wife has an 8220. We spend a lot of time in Blackberry Messenger, rather than texting. It’s the name of BlackBerry’s game – full on communication.
I also do a lot with my berry all at once. I’ve got WordPress installed, I leave GoogleTalk and Live Messenger running all the time (feel free to flip me a message if we’re connected, I always respond), and have my Twitter client going as well. Multitasking is one thing that RIM certainly does far better than iPhone, but there’s a problem. The number of actual tasks a BlackBerry can DO is small, and it’s not growing very quickly.
So you’ve got Apps. Big whoop, so do I.
When AppWorld launched, I was pretty excited. Before then, there was no appreciable way of getting programs you could be sure to work onto a given model. However, even with AppWorld a year and more old, the app density is still very low. There’s not much for free aside from what I’ve got already, and finding specialized apps is a failing prospect. How long did it take me to find a decent Twitter client? Three weeks. Granted, I wasn’t searching hard, but I eventually did find SocialScope, which is wonderful, but still lacks support for some of the features I like in my PC-based clients. Guess what? The iPhone has massive amounts of support, both free and paid, for Twitter, Facebook, and other networks. And it has IM clients, even if the lack of multitasking is a pain. It’s an entirely different experience than BlackBerry.
Unfortunately, Research in Motion is not an experience business; they’re a production business.
The same gap is facing many device manufacturers these days. The game used to be develop, market, sell, warranty. But all that changes when someone breaks the process. When someone comes along and offers post-sale support and new features on an extending, nigh-infinite basis, businesses based in production start to fall very short. Especially when the new players begin to offer every possible feature a customer might want.
Oh, what? iPhone lacks a feature?
Oh. That Flash thing? I don’t care.
Flash may still be relevant for gaming, but I expect that game developers will eventually find it more useful to develop Apps for the iPhone OS that are paid, and encourage either ad-based revenue, or micro-transaction, modularized purchasing. When that gets bigger, Flash might die entirely.
Apple is interested in a never-ending transaction.
I owned an iPod Touch for almost a year before I gave it up for the sake of more storage space on an iPod Classic, because at the time I figured my BlackBerry would do everything I wanted. At the time it did.
What I forgot to gauge, however, was the number of apps I downloaded and used on a casual basis. As much as the opposition can rattle on about the high percentage of apps abandoned after first use,this is actually part of the key brilliance of Apple’s app store strategy; the massive number of programs available, in their wide variety, creates an endless well to draw from. There are free trials for just about everything, and if you’ve got the impetus, you can find an app for just about anything you want.
Once you start downloading apps, it’s really difficult to stop. This might be a bad thing for some people, but I can’t help but see it as an awesome way to encourage innovation.
Turning Enthusiasm Into Incentive.
Apple attracts developers and customers the same way: an innovative platform that’s easy to use, with massive extensibility and a market that’s not just competitive in pricing and profitability, but in advancement and interest. It’s the technological equivalent of the network effect, using hype as fuel to expand the same way trees use carbon dioxide to grow.
Despite silly product names and the constant barrage of hate because its mobile devices lack Flash, Apple is still winning. This isn’t because their devices are any better than their competitors hardware. It’s because they’re better at providing ongoing support.
But I’m still not convinced about the iPad.
Photo by The Pug Father.