This morning, BlackBerry quietly announced a new device for emerging markets around the world, the BlackBerry 9720. This new BlackBerry smartphone is not running BlackBerry 10 (the OS BlackBerry has been pushing hard to gain traction), but is instead running OS 7.1 (the OS BlackBerry was trying to distance itself from). Immediately, the questions have, and frankly should have, come up as to why in the world BlackBerry would do this at this point in time? Is it a smart, or dumb idea? Let's check out the different sides of this argument.
Let's start with the reasons why releasing the BlackBerry 9720 is a good idea because truthfully there aren't that many.
First of all, BlackBerry 7 devices are still selling like crazy in these emerging markets where the 9720 will be available. According to the last quarterly report, BlackBerry sold 6.8m smartphones over its last three months, 4.1m of which were BlackBerry 7 devices. Even though a new BlackBerry 7 device hadn't been released in a bit, certain countries like Indonesia, love them.
BlackBerry 7 devices also come with BIS, a source of revenue for the company, and savings for the customer. BlackBerry 10 devices don't run on BIS, so bringing out a new BB7 device keeps this service alive for the time being, which for some, is a great idea. Along with having BIS, carriers can offer cheaper data plans around the world which incentivizes customers that may not want to spend a lot on a phone, or its plan, to get on board.
Price is also a huge factor. The 9720's retail price hasn't been revealed, but odds are it'll be a lot cheaper than the Q10, and maybe even cheaper than Q5 when the data plan is factored in. People want a service like BBM, push email; etc, and if they can get it at a better price with the 9720, that's what they'll get.
The BlackBerry 9720 will directly compete with the Q5 in certain regions. Now, you may say, BlackBerry makes money regardless of whether someone gets the 9720 or the Q5. You'd be 100% right, but aside from selling, BlackBerry needs something even more important, and that's BlackBerry 10 market share.
Big time developers, like Netflix, Instagram, etc look at market share (as stupid as it may sound) to determine which OS has a sufficiently large enough user base to warrant a version of their app. Imagine if instead of just 2.1m BlackBerry 10 devices, all 6.8m smartphones were BB10. Obviously, it would have helped the appearance of BlackBerry 10, and definitely helped it gain more traction. Putting out the 9720 only gives the Q5 another competitor at the end of the day.
It also sends the wrong message. We know it's a strategic move, but to most people that hear about BlackBerry coming out with a BB7 device it sounds like they can't let go of the past, or that BlackBerry 10 is too high end for them. The amount of negative media attention that the announcement of the 9720 generated is no surprise, but seriously, why give them more ammo?
Just thinking about the amount of time, and money spent developing the 9720 makes my head hurt. It probably wasn't much truthfully, but there are some changes with the keyboard, and even software that had to take some time.
Now we want to know, is releasing the 9720 a good or bad move on BlackBerry's part? Sound off in the comments and vote in the poll!