A recent report published by The Verge
revealed how one group in the Silicon Valley tried to take over BlackBerry and what their plans entailed for the company (it's a fantastic read, so if you haven't done so already, check it out). The essence of their plan was to have BlackBerry abandon their own OS, BlackBerry 10, switch over to Android full time and migrate all the security and enterprise systems they're known for over to those new devices. While the difficulty of such a plan was clearly underestimated, it did bring up a great question in the grand scheme of things, and has again sparked the debate: should BlackBerry have switched to Android and left BlackBerry 10 behind?
There are always two sides to a debate, and as we always like to do, we'll analyze points from each.
THE ARGUMENT AGAINST IT
BlackBerry would fade away as just another OEM running Android
The answer to this question isn't as cut and dry as people on both sides would have you believe. BlackBerry loyalists will be quick to tell you how this would've been a bad decision, as BlackBerry would have just become another Me Too OEM, and in that aspect they are correct.
Companies like HTC, SONY, LG, and others have gone crazy trying to sell smartphones and steal some market share from Android giant, Samsung. Unfortunately for them, it still hasn't happened they way they'd like it to. As Mary Branscombe from ZDNet points out,
Samsung ships almost 7 times the amount of smartphones as any of these other OEMs. Right now, it simply isn't a fair fight in that aspect for anyone.
The first side argues that if BlackBerry chose to just run Android, they wouldn't stand a chance with their marketing in making any significant impact in the Android competitive world, and would effectively fade away like other OEMs are doing right now. There is however another popular opinion, and that is that BlackBerry would have succeeded even more with Android on board.
THE ARGUMENTS FOR IT
BlackBerry's hardware could have been a big differentiator
Most people that aren't huge fans of BlackBerry would tell you that even though they may not be as good as Samsung in marketing, BlackBerry's hardware has always been top notch, and that could end up being tempting enough for many to switch. For example, that beautiful Q10 keyboard paired up with Android is a dream come true for many people out there.
There are a lot of people on non-BB devices that want BlackBerry hardware, that keyboard specifically, and want nothing to do with any OS BlackBerry puts out there. The amount of times I have read over social media, tech blogs, comments; etc. that people want a Q10 like device that runs anything but a BlackBerry-based OS is shocking. No Android OEM has been able to nail down the physical keyboard properly, and BlackBerry may have missed an opportunity to succeed by not becoming the first and only to do so.
Customization on Android would have benefited BlackBerry
Google also allows its OEMs to customize Android to their hearts' content. If you pick up a Galaxy S4, an HTC One, and a Nexus 4, you'll notice that while they may have some similarities, their UI is very, very different in certain aspects.
There is no doubt Google would have allowed the same type of customization to BlackBerry that could have even made it feel like a BlackBerry 10 device of sorts. A Hub-like section to the left maybe, a la BlinkFeed on an HTC One. It could've even also included a special feature that Z10 owners love, their keyboard.
BlackBerry plain and simply makes the best keyboard (whether touchscreen or physical) in the mobile industry. No buts about it. Bringing that simple, yet innovative addition to their specific Android devices would have severed as leverage to get customers to pick up their device over another OEMs'.
Making BBM exclusive on their devices
Now that BBM is going cross-platform it's obviously a null point, but if we're going on about why BlackBerry could have gone Android, BBM would have been one of the many reasons for its success.
As mentioned before, OEMs are allowed to tweak Android to their hearts content, and are even allowed to have certain apps pre-loaded on the OS for their specific devices. An Android powered BlackBerry smartphone that exclusively had BBM would've been a pretty huge draw, and another thing they could have leveraged vs other OEMs. True, eventually that .apk would have spread and others would have had it, but not officially, and not pre-loaded on anyone else's devices.
The Samsung approach
Samsung is currently the top dog in the Android world, and by a lot. However, they are working on an OS called Tizen.
It's had its fair share of delays,
but it seems like it will see the light of day eventually. It's tempting not to think what could have been possible if BlackBerry bought themselves more time to perfect BlackBerry 10 by releasing a whole line of Android powered devices beforehand with the exclusives outlined above.
Many of us that are running a 10.2 believe this OS is so top notch, it's what BlackBerry 10 should have been from the get-go. The Z30 is sounding more and more like an amazing device, and more and more like what the Z10 should have been. BlackBerry put out a great product with 10.0, but given more time, it could have been invaluable to the experience.
The problem I have with this whole Android vs BlackBerry 10 arguments is that it's always been Android OR BlackBerry 10, when in reality, it could've been Android AND BlackBerry 10. Yes, the amount of work that would have been needed to make this happen would have been tremendous, and with Thorsten Heins' approach of trimming down the company to make it a lean, mean machine, it would have been nearly impossible to achieve, but how much could they have gained for the effort? Would they still be in the position they're in now had they deviated slightly from the plan?
It's always fun to speculate. Specially since we don't really have any say in what ends up happening with different companies and operating systems. It's also super easy to just write down ideas that you think could work, and play armchair quarterback (or CEO in this case), when in reality there is so much more than meets the eye to make huge leaps like the ones outlined above.
In the end, I'm happy BlackBerry 10 exists. It's my favorite mobile OS, and I honestly can't imagine what it would be like without it. It is hard not to think of the what could have been, though, and that'll always be the case in pretty much everything in life.
We definitely want to know what you think about BlackBerry not going the Android route? Was it a good move, or not? Flame on in the comments below!