Research In Motion Ltd. began its comeback attempt on Wednesday, unveiling two new BlackBerry Bold and three new BlackBerry Torch devices that are expected to be available from all Canadian carriers later this month.
But while the jury is still out on whether RIM’s huge launch will resonate with consumers, early indicators from bloggers indicate the new crop of BlackBerry 7 OS devices do little to solve the handset-maker’s long-term problems.
All Things D blogger John Paczkowski said RIM’s “summer of soft BlackBerry sales” looks to continue in wake of the release.
“So RIM’s in quite a predicament, and, sadly, it’s one that may not be easily solved — certainly not by the decidedly unexciting new handsets the company announced this morning,” he wrote. “They might play well in enterprise, but the consumer market expects more.”
InformationWeek blogger Eric Zeman said that all of RIM’s new devices offer up “incremental improvements” to earlier designs, adding that RIM has become famous for this pattern in recent years.
“The Torch 9810 is a warmed-over 9800,” he wrote. “The 9860/9850 is a refreshed Storm. The Bold Touch 9900 is a modified Bold. Nothing about these devices is new and innovative — and innovation is where RIM has failed.”
Zeman added that in the face of light speed innovations at Google and Apple, RIM needs QNX-based BlackBerry devices to drastically change the direction of its smart phone vision. Until then, however, the new crop of devices will be released as a temporary stop-gap.
“RIM has taken the lazy man’s approach in order to have something sitting on the shelves of its wireless network operator partner’s stores for the next six months,” he wrote. “It refreshed existing form factors, bumped up the specs, put some spit and polish on the user interface, and hopes no one will notice that these are the same old phones.”
Kevin Tofel, a blogger with GigaOm, said that while BlackBerry’s “stopgap” platform shows some positive evolution and should sell well to BlackBerry faithful, the company is still stuck back in 2010.
“That doesn’t mean these handsets will flop; some will buy them and be happy,” he wrote. “But not enough to counteract RIM’s slowing sales figures in a market that’s growing overall. And I say 2012 because we’ll be entering the final third of 2011 when the first of these new BlackBerry devices arrive; they’ll power sales (or not as the case may be) at least through the first half of 2012.”
Tofel added that RIM might have been sidetracked from building a new QNX-enabled smart phone OS to compete with Apple and Google because of its one year detour building the Playbook tablet.
“The tablet market is only just beginning; there’s time to build a solid product there and still compete,” he wrote. “But the smart phone market is RIM’s bread and butter. The company should have made a fast transition to QNX on the handset where it would have benefitted faster from the tens of millions of smart phones sold every quarter.”
For James Kendrick, a blogger ZDNet, the new release will give BlackBerry enthusiasts some faster phones and better Web browsing options to play with, but will do little to stem the desertion of many RIM customers. He called BlackBerry 7 a “lame duck OS.”
PC Mag blogger Sascha Segan agreed, saying that a faster processor, more memory and new graphics acceleration are the type of upgrades he’d like to see on a “platform of the future” as opposed to a transitional OS.
“RIM’s phones need a gut rehab and these new Torches aren’t it,” he wrote. “BlackBerry 7 has a role. RIM’s core business customers need to replace dying phones with something compatible, and RIM needs an OS to run messaging phones for the next several years.”
“But a RIM that relies on BlackBerry 7 just becomes the world’s biggest provider of cheap texting devices.”