Will Blackberry hit the right keys this time with Z10 and Q10

Written by Darlington Jose Hector | Darlington Jose Hector | Updated: Feb 4 2013, 17:06pm hrs
So there you go. Alicia Keys is what you get with a BlackBerry. The newly minted global creative director of the Canadian smartphone maker says she will play a hands-on role and work closely with app developers to create ideas for the future. Good luck to her and the BlackBerry family. This is not the first time a celebrity singer has held such a position in the technology arena. Will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas held a similar position for Intel and Lady Gaga did the same for Polaroid. However, Alicias entry has been the most dramatic and talked about, because this comes at a time when BlackBerry is at a crossroads. She says she wants to bridge the gap between the work phone and the play phone, which is what all of us want.

So far, so good. But the move appeared to be a bit too desperate. Here you have a new phone which has been worked upon to wow the world and take on the iPhones and the Androids handsets, and then you have to hire a songwriter to jazz up the show. I wonder what BlackBerrys internal creative team has to say about it. The company is probably suffering from what could be called a Steve Jobs syndrome. Jobs knew how to run the show. Music was a key ingredient to his overall showmanship, and other firms like BlackBerry now seem to believe that they have to do the same to stay on course.

In the past few years, thousands of consumers have left BlackBerry shores in search of greener pastures. Samsungs Galaxy S III and the ever so desirable iPhone have given BlackBerry a real hiding. The Canadian company had to push out its two co-foundersthe legendary Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillieafter the firm suffered huge losses. Its operations chief Thorsten Heins then took over as CEO. Make no mistake, this is BlackBerrys last chance for a revival. It was once hot property in corporate circles, but not anymore. Many started saying that they felt like hiding the product.

This is the age of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and the line between what is private and what is professional is blurring. Today corporates are allowing personal devices to be used at work. This is what iPhone is doing to competition and BlackBerry is now falling in line. The result is the BlackBerry Z10, a touchscreen phone, and the Q10 that combines a keyboard with a touchscreen.

BlackBerry is driving home the point that the BB10 devices are the best when it comes to a great typing experience. Every time a letter is typed out, the device predicts not only the word that is being typed in but also the following one. A heat-mapping technology learns from the consumers typing patterns as well and that should help reduce errors. The best part is one can swipe from one live application to another without derailing each other.

But I wonder why the company has chosen to stagger the launch of its products. The best thing to do is make the devices available almost immediately after the announcements are made. Thats dramatic and effective. But BlackBerry has chosen the more hazardous route. The company has said that Z10 will debut in Canada early this month, but may appear in the key market of United States only in March or April. Q10 will come into the picture even later. This has poured some good bit of cold water on to the scene. The markets were not impressed by this. Its stock slipped by 6.8% after the announcement was made in New York.

Samsungs new Galaxy IV device may enter the US market before Z10 does, and that would be a real shame for BlackBerry if that happens and all attention gets shifted.

BlackBerry is one of the bigger smartphone players in India, where Samsung and Nokia dominate. The Indian market is dominated by low priced products and BlackBerry will be well aware of this. India is the worlds fourth largest smartphone market, a region that no player can afford to take lightly. Its messenger service (BBM) is still a very popular feature in India and the companys hold has spread even outside corporate circles. But for the firm to make its new devices a big success in India, pricing will be the key.