Torch No iPhone Killer, But Does RIM Need It To Be?

Research In Motion is preaching to the choir. That's the general consensus among many analysts and industry watchers in regard to the Torch 9800 and BlackBerry 6 -- they'll be embraced by those already faithful to RIM devices, but won't be compelling or radical enough to convert iPhone and Android-phone followers.

The good news for RIM is that may be fine. Anointing BlackBerry loyalists with the updated operating system and subsequent compatible devices may be enough for the handset-maker to stay competitive, according to some industry observers.

Everyone acknowledges that the stakes are high for RIM, as it must keep pace with hard-charging rivals, namely the iPhone 4 and iOS, and the bevy of smartphones such as the Evo 4G running Google's mobile Linux OS, Android, currently in version 2.2.

But opinions differ on the strategy for doing that: some think RIM needs -- and with the Torch failed to deliver -- an 'iPhone killer' while others say shoring up the BlackBerry base will keep RIM in contention over the long-haul.

Dan Nosowitz of Fast Company calls the Torch outdated and the BlackBerry 6 unambitious.

"The new BlackBerry Torch is a disappointing handset.Its processor is on par with the last-generation iPhone and other older phones like the Palm Pre and Motorola Droid. Its screen is quite simply at least two years out of date, and will seem blurry and inadequate to those used to a modern Android phone or the iPhone 4...BlackBerry's OS 6 software is a baby step at best, designed to keep current customers feeling comfortable, rather than moving the platform forward," writes Nosowitz in the post "Is BlackBerry doomed to be North America's Nokia?."

Wilson Rothman of MSNBC.com echoes these issues, specifically the Torch screen resolution as it compares to the iPhone 4, in a post titled "Underwhelming BlackBerry spells doom for RIM."

"BlackBerry devotees the world over may be excited by the Torch and BB6 news. There are plenty of improvements over the older BlackBerry models, and RIM is promising to roll out the new OS as an upgrade for many popular models.

"Although appealing to the tens of millions of content BlackBerry owners is important, RIM's announcement Tuesday needed to excite the legions of disgruntled BB owners who are currently exploring other options, and even catch the attention of people who have already stood in line for iPhones or Droids. Alas, it did not," writes Rothman.

Still, others believe that RIM will do fine without a full-court press attack on the iPhone and Android handsets, or at the very least, will remain relevant in the smartphone sector with continued innovation.

PCMag.com: 'RIM's BlackBerry Torch Isn't Trying to Kill iPhone'

"As I attended the launch of the device and its new BlackBerry OS 6.0 software this morning, I was struck by how BlackBerry maker Research in Motion really isn't trying to create a competitor to the iPhone, but rather, the next logical step for BlackBerry users," writes Michael J. Miller of PCMag.com.

He goes on to say that the Torch won't wow iPhone and Android phone fans, but it will boost RIM's performance. "What it will do is be an easy upgrade for BlackBerry users, and make the BlackBerry much more competitive in areas like browsing, social networks, and unified search. That, plus the ease of use and the keyboard BlackBerrys are known for, and the corporate management features, should be enough to keep lots of BlackBerry users happy."

Lance Ulanoff, also of PCMag.com., mirrors this stance.

"The BlackBerry Torch is not an Apple iPhone killer -- and that is OK. In fact, I prefer it that way. Such a label only sets up Research in Motion's newest device for failure. This touch-screen/QWERTY combo phone will not and should not fail. Unlike the ill-conceived BlackBerry Storm, there is no ridiculous gimmick in the BlackBerry Torch. Instead, it's the product of a lot of smart, clear-headed thinking about what existing BlackBerry users -- like me -- want," writes Ulanoff.

"When RIM first showed me the Storm two years ago, I was excited, but concerned. I knew that 'touch-press' would not fly. The first time I saw the BlackBerry Torch, I had the exact opposite feeling. My own Blackberry Bold 9000 seemed instantly subpar by comparison."

Netting new customers could come down to BlackBerry 6 apps

Avi Greengart, analyst at Current Analysis, is cautiously optimistic about RIM's future based on the Torch and BlackBerry 6 preview. "RIM's OS 6 and Torch announcements ought to be enough to keep the 50 million BlackBerry users -- many of whom are fanatically attached to the brand -- extremely happy.

"RIM had three pain points to address: Web browsing, the user interface, and apps. It has fully caught up in browsing, and existing BlackBerry users will be thrilled by the enhancements in the UI. However, the improvements in OS 6 are still just evolutionary, and without more fundamental changes, RIM may continue to struggle to attract app developers."

Harry McCracken, of PCWorld, agrees on the last point made by Greengart, saying RIM's future success in luring new customers could depend on how mobile app development for BlackBerry 6 progresses.

"Will people who don't currently have a BlackBerry get excited enough about the Torch to choose it over an iPhone or an Android handset? Well, maybe: I think the quality and quantity of OS 6 apps will have a lot to do with that. Both have been obstacles for the platform until now, but RIM and AT&T executives at the event said some encouraging things -- most notably that programmers will be able to build apps using Web technologies such as HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS rather than RIM's notoriously nettlesome Java-based tools," writes McCracken in the article "BlackBerry Torch First Impressions Fresh but Familiar Indeed."

In terms of how the Torch and new BlackBerry OS will impact the market, Greengart says RIM is doing well in driving consumer sales, but still needs to innovate.

"RIM is the market leader in the U.S. in terms of unit sales, and rumors of its demise have proven premature more than once," says Greengart. "RIM actually made the transition from enterprise to consumer several years ago with the launch of the Pearl; since then, the majority of BlackBerrys have been bought by individuals, not corporations. That said, OS 6 does not absolve RIM from creating a new OS, perhaps based on its QNX acquisition, with more radical innovation."


Blackberry, RIM, BlackBerry 6, BlackBerry 9800, Torch