The new Blackberry 10 came out this week, to somewhat mixed reviews. The market was unimpressed, with RIMM (soon to be BBRY) falling 12% on the day of the introduction. The NYT’s David Pogue liked it; WSJ’s Walter Mossberg was more circumspect.

But the big surprise to me was the lack of a physical keyboard. I thought for sure they would include one.

Why? There are already tons of rectangular glass touch slabs out there. Apple’s iPhone and all of the Android variants, plus small niche sellers like Microsoft’s Surface. How much is yet another OS in the space likely to garner in terms of marketshare?

What I expected from Blackberry was a combination between the two: The well loved Blackberry physical keyboard cleverly mated to an iPhone like piece of glass. That not only might have created some buzz, it is a product that many of the old Blackberry fans would still buy. And, it could possibly attract people who have tried typing on glass and given up on it.

Sure, voice recognition is getting to the point where mobile devices will eventually be practically keyboard free. But that’s still a few years off, and Blackberry could have made a splash for the folks who are looking for something superior to the current iPhone/Android experience.

From what I see, Blackberry 10 does have quite a few nice innovations, which you can expect to see on future generations of iPhones and Androids. The predictive typing will migrate, as will Balance — BlackBerry’s personal/work sandboxing feature. But the consensus seems to be “too little too late.”

That’s too bad. It looks like Blackberry was remembering their glory days, rather than assessing the market that exists here and now. There was an opportunity to create a unique niche between the old — Blackberry with physical keyboards — and the current generation of smart phones. That is a substantial niche, somewhere between 5-15 percent, if not higher. For some context, Microsoft currently has a 3.5% share in mobile smart phones.

Opportunity missed . . .


Mossberg: BlackBerry Release Is No Perfect 10 (WSJ)
• Pogue: More Things to Love About the BlackBerry 10 (NYT)
• 5 things that could make BlackBerry 10 a hit (CNN)
• Inside BlackBerry’s last stand (Fortune)
• BlackBerry Shares Fall After Launch Underwhelms Investors (Bloomberg)

Category: Corporate Management, Technology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

20 Responses to “Blackberry 10: Why No Physical Keyboard?”

  1. chad_cotty says:

    I may be misunderstanding, but they released a Z10 and Q10, with the Q10 having a physical keyboard.

    Here’s a link:

  2. seamfar says:

    As I understand it, the model Z10 with no keyboard will be released now, and the Q10 with the keyboard, will be released in April.

    I am due to upgrade my phone, and will wait ’til April to decide between Android and Blackberry. (I like the keyboard feature but wish RIMM had more apps available.)

  3. The Q10 is like a traditional Blackberry with a touchscreen. Smallish screen — the worst of both worlds!

    I am referring to something new and innovative

  4. Raisin says:

    I think you are missing on this one. I am an old man. I thought I needed a physical keyboard on my first Android. I purchased one with a keyboard three years ago. I no longer use the physical keyboard. You just get use to the screen keyboard. The physical make the device thicker. It is one more thing that can break. I think RIM did the right thing to even have a chance.

  5. BR,

    re your 12:16

    yes, quite..

    if peep are willing to carry the Samsung Note, they’d carry an S III with a Keyboard..

    along those lines, seeing that MSFT bought out Danger..

    they, too, should have ‘flared their Lips back’, and re-released..

    (with updated ‘tronics, of course..)

    speaking of a ‘Keyboard’ that Works..

    lo, then They wouldn’t br MSFT & RIMM, then, would they?

  6. eliz says:

    Went from BB to Galaxy SIII. Ready to move back to the BB Q10 when avail. I miss the keyboard and how much easier email was to manage. Yeah – it won’t suit everyone, but it will suit some of us.

  7. InterestedObserver says:

    I faced this quandry recently.

    For the longest time I’ve used my personal smartphone in a work context. I never came close to hitting any usage limits, so I skipped getting a corporate mobile phone. However, I don’t have global coverage and that’s a coming need, so I was looking to get a company phone. My two options – BB paid phone/paid plan or an iPhone which I could buy with contract pricing and the company pays the plan going forward. Since it would count as my phone, iPhone hardware/software support is up to me (hello Applecare+).

    I waited to see what the BB10 was offering. I ordered my iPhone 5 on the day BB rolled out their new offerings. Too little, too late. They’ve lost the market.

    My personal cell is an Android and that’s not targeted for corporate integration at the moment, so that wasn’t an option. Now if Apple would just license something like Swype and embed it into iOS, things would be nearly perfect.

  8. capitalistic says:

    I held on to BB until Jan 2012 (Samsung S). I’m waiting for their BB 10 with the keyboard to roll around – if it’s worth it, I’ll get it.

  9. wally says:

    I think we’ve turned the ‘commoditization’ corner – if there is such a word.
    That means the fundamental innovation is now over and whoever can manufacture most cheaply will now take the market. I’d bet on Samsung here.

  10. wally says:

    The other thing I’d now bet on is the service providers – Verizon and AT&T.
    Apple, Samsung, Nokia and others may be selling the razors, but the big phone companies are selling the blades, to use the old Gillette terms.
    You can saturate the market with cool phones, then your selling spree – and profits – are over… but the airtime contracts go on and on.
    Oh… and those guys pay dividends, too.

  11. gkm says:

    Maybe BB recognizes niche as being just that; hence, the Q10. Or, maybe they recognize that a small screen means nothing when you can slip on a pair of glasses fairly soon and have a screen as big as you want. Or maybe they recognize that with the micro HDMI out you can connect to any monitor with a cord. Or maybe they think that pairing the Playbook with the device is another way to go. In a world with lots of options, maybe all you need is a small touch screen AND a qwerty keyboard and then you have the best of all worlds.

    I think the overlooked features to the new phones are the software such as Hub and Balance, but these only apply to the real business mobility users. These don’t apply to the majority of smartphone users however. Most people are connected for play, not for work. Even one gadget reviewer said he was connected mostly with gmail so what does the Hub matter. If employers demand more bang for their buck from employees, I think people will opt for BB’s once more, but again that is not the majority of users.

    You’re probably best off to find out what the Money Honey is going to do to understand if BB has a shot. Ironically, she’s probably the marginal user that will define BB’s prospects.

  12. Stuart says:

    iphones are for girls who want facebook and time wasting apps. I need the physical keyboard, will wait for the Q10 as it’s a business tool, not a toy.

  13. InterestedObserver says:

    @gkm: “You’re probably best off to find out what the Money Honey is going to do to understand if BB has a shot. Ironically, she’s probably the marginal user that will define BB’s prospects.”

    Actually, I’d count myself as a marginal user. My two prime needs, a global phone and email integration are handled by either platform quite well. On those counts, either option would be fine.

    However, in going paperless I’m using iOS on an iPad. So, I can try to get some coherence around iOS while Windows remains the desktop environment, or I could throw yet another platform/UI into the mix.

    I would have been willing to do that for something that looked compelling. To me, the noise around lack of apps on the BB10 platform is just noise. If it’s important, an app will be there. However, if I’ve already started to get comfortable with iOS, and there’s no hook to BB, I’m going with the path of least resistance, which is what I now know, and that’s iOS

  14. Theravadin says:

    I just ordered the Z10 – going to give it a try.

    I find the iOS devices to be essentially phones masquerading as computers. In principle, based on the potential in QNX, BB10 can be the opposite – a computer masquerading as a phone (multitasking, capable of being interfaced with a full sized keyboard and monitor/projector and doing meaningful business functions). If that promise is realized, I think there will be a place for Blackberry.

    Down the road, there is a real opportunity for somebody to build a ground up OS based on something really tight like QNX, and take on Microsoft. Windows is such a hideous overweight legacy mess, and Apple’s OS not much better. Don’t know that Blackberry is up for that fight, but I live in hope…

    Disclosure: I own (a few) Blackberry shares… and no Apple shares.

  15. Bob A says:

    assuming they had to pick between this and a slider this is the best choice.
    maybe a slider will come later if they get some traction.

    meanwhile apple’s latest and greatest is a smallish 4″ phone in a world where
    there’s an enormous appetite for bigger phones. what were they thinking?

    maybe they’re taking the same drugs

  16. ZenRazor says:

    I can monitor a billion+ investment portfolio for clients and see our CRM system from my iOS toys. It’s far from perfect, but it works.

    I missed my old Blackberry’s keyboard for about a month when I ditched it. (Realizing that RIMM was a fantastic short back then more than made up for my temporary keyboard angst.) Unfortunately I’m too busy with business to have ever had a facebook account.

    I hope you enjoy your Q10.

  17. be the ball says:

    I don’t really care about the blackberry but you are guilty at the open of the kind of lazy reporting that you so often (rightfully) criticize….

    “The market was unimpressed, with RIMM (soon to be BBRY) falling 12% on the day of the introduction.”

    RIMM stock had rallied 200% from $6 to $18 from the time the product was announced until it was actually released. Selling happening on the actual release is a natural phenomena, and one that happens with AAPL on a regular basis. I have no idea if the blackberry will be a success or not, but I can say with 100% certainty that the 11% drop on the release date is NOT a predictive indicator.


    BR: RIMM was $150 in 2008, before collapsing to single digits. So while it might have rallied 200% — about $8 bucks — its still $142 below where it was pre-iPhone.

    Hows that for some context ?

  18. Moopheus says:

    If physical keyboards were so important to Blackberry users, then why do I know so many who have switched to phones without them? My first smartphone had a slide-out keyboard, but after a while I realized I was just never using it. So why bother with it? I know some users were really into the messaging service, but now other phones have that too.

  19. Chad says:

    The revolution won’t come from the most stodigy player in an industry, even if that player has lost all it’s power. That brand still shouts “corporate” and “computer clueless.” They should have done exactly what Barry suggests and created high quality physical keyboard with the slab of glass, while making the security bulletproof compared to Android and iOS. Their market is big, old, and slow companies, not Silicon Valley or similar areas/people.

  20. S Brennan says:

    “and whoever can manufacture most cheaply will now take the market.”

    Gotta disagree here, quality matters. Recently, after much berating by my friends I gave up my flip phone. On the advice of a friend went to the Northgate ATT [Seattle Area] store to buy a Samsung III, but the the juvenile sales rep convinced me Samsung was crap with poor software and HCT X-ONE was the one to buy. I didn’t like the feel of the HCT X-ONE in my hand, it had sharp edges and it’s buttons were placed poorly, but against my own judgement, I bought the HCT X-ONE at the sale persons insistence.

    From day one I had problems with the touch screen, proximity switch, dropped calls and the need to reboot 3-4 times a day. In the following week I brought the HCT X-ONE back several times, only to be told that I needed to get used to the technology, that all older people had these problems, keep it a little longer until you get the hang of it… Finally at thirty days I brought the HCT X-ONE back with it’s box and demanded a refund or a replacement. I was refused. The time limit was no longer thirty days as I had been told, but 14 days. I felt cheated. The manager if anything was more insistent, more arrogant more insulting in supporting the behavior of his staff.

    Long story short, after dozens of calls [and hours] to tech support of trying resolve the HCT X-One issues and getting an HCT rep who could do nothing fix the problems, customer support at ATT did the right thing and replaced the phone, [with what my friend advised in the first place].

    All the problems I had with the HCT X-One disappeared, no more issues with the touch screen, the proximity switch worked, the dropped calls ceased and the need to reboot 3-4 times a day disapeared, either I had become an experienced “user” overnight or the quality of the Samsung was dramatically better. The daily/hourly aggravation ceased.

    Quality matters.

    PS, I have since been advised to avoid ATT stores where all the staff are teenage/near teenager in years…and there is a noticeable difference when you follow this advice. I found a store where people are helpful, but listen to you. I have a second line and I plan on purchasing there. I have never had a problem with the staff at ATT before, so I will treat the Northgate ATT as an outlier. My thanks to the adults at ATT’s customer service.

    My advice to ATT management of ATT stores…get some adult supervision in place, that one salesperson may have made a profit for that individual store, but he “cost shifted” the expense of the transaction throughout ATT…and it cost ATT a bundle, far more than the profit of the phone.