Shares of Research In Motion jumped on Monday in anticipation of the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which is due out on Jan. 30. We also have an inkling the company’s stock price had a little help on the earlier news that Apple was cutting orders from component suppliers. That brings into question two things: is Apple in trouble, and is BlackBerry 10 enough to be excited about?
I’d argue that no, Apple isn’t in trouble. Not yet. It is, however, fighting a multi-front war against Android, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8. And it’s fighting the war by releasing a single handset each year while its competitors, such as Samsung, Nokia, HTC and RIM, are releasing multiple devices. That means, in short, that it’s not only fighting Google and Samsung, RIM or Microsoft, it’s fighting all of those companies at once, and it’s fighting several handsets from each. That’s a tough war to fight. Apple’s king when it comes to industrial design, but we all loved RIM’s BlackBerry keyboards before its software fell behind. I didn’t foresee myself ever saying this, but I think Apple really needs to wow with iOS 7, especially at the speed at which Android is moving. Samsung’s Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III provide unique experiences and the ability to run two apps on the same screen at once. That’s compelling to consumers, if not overly important to everyone, and consumers have choice not only in hardware but in software features.
That takes me back to RIM and BlackBerry 10. We played with it during the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show last week and it’s nothing to laugh at. In fact, it’s going to be a major global player if RIM markets the new handsets properly. Does Apple need to worry about RIM this year? Maybe not, but it does need to take the company into consideration in the long term. RIM’s fall didn’t happen overnight — it happened over the span of a few years — and its growth could occur in the same fashion.
As the market revealed today, we need to keep an eye on both RIM and Apple. Apple’s order cuts may even provide a glimpse into a bigger problem: China. We know Tim Cook recently met with the chairman of China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier in terms of customers. Its parts order cuts suggest that, possibly, a deal wasn’t reached to offer the iPhone on China Mobile. If a deal was indeed inked, Apple would no doubt need to boost production in order to meet the incredible demand from an influx of new customers.
The coming months and years are indeed going to prove very important for every player in the mobile industry. But eyes are going to be focused on RIM— the underdog— and Apple, to see where the market share offsets occur. If BlackBerry 10 digs into Apple’s iPhone market share, we could see the current market trends continue.