RIM, the company that invented Blackberry, a mean email machine, was the #1 seller in the recent years in smart phones. Quite an achievement in a world where companies like Nokia, Google, Microsoft exist (things then changed, but for a while RIM was #1).
I was a loyal client of RIM for many years, I was loving every minute of it. The keypad, the two thumbs clicking, the sound, I even liked the “old school” screen and feel. It felt like the Bloomberg terminal, not pretentious and really cutting to the chase, providing you the value you needed. And I’m a very needy customer when it comes to my mobile device. I want it fast and stable.
Well, that’s at least what I thought I had wanted. In reality, I started to want more.
Like a married man who didn’t get a good hug from his wife in a while, I started for the first time in my life “noticing my surroundings”: larger screens, faster hardware, application marketplace and more. I started to be confused. What is it that I really need as a mobile consumer.
At that time of confusion, I still had many berry-friends, and there was another one big hook RIM was able to create which actually always surprised me. BBM (Blackberry Messenger). I never understood how could products like Skype, GTalk never made my BBM redundant, but they never did. BBM was dead simple and working amazingly well. I loved it, I talked to people around the world using BBM, sending them pictures, getting notifications when they type, I could see if they had received my messages, I loved it. I’m afraid to say that while I had serious intentions to leave Blackberry 1.5 years ago, the BBM kept me in for another year at least. A true “barrier to entry” (or maybe barrier to exit)
One day, I was going to jersey, and I had an hour to kill to catch the train. I saw a Verizon store, I walked in, and I told the sales guy – “My good man, show me the best Android you have in your possession”. Making spontaneous, irrational decision, I purchased the Motorola Droid Pro (a blend between Blackberry and Iphone).
Amazing. So Amazing. Wow. Exciting. Refreshing. Fast. Big. Connected. Stable. It was me, it was the new me. I became an Android user and enthusiast, and it became hard to convince me otherwise or look aside anymore.
Been cheerful and all, one thing I really missed was… well BBM. I really wanted to bbm my friends, and my family and I couldn’t. Why? Because RIM held their BBM walled gardened, not opening it up for non Blackberry users. On paper – smart, that’s their “barrier”.
In real life, if you ever started a company, raised money, and pitched an idea to anyone you know one thing will never-ever change. Void never remains. If there is a real need, someone will fill it in.
It could be that many tried to fill that void, but I happen to installed WhatsApp and I think it’s simple and brilliant. What they did that Skype/GTalk didn’t do is made it so simple/stupid that it actually worked. Instead of WhatsApp pretending they give a shit and tried to create a ‘WhatsApp community’ they just automatically synchronized with your real-life contact list cellular numbers. If “Vicus” is a friend of mine, and she is on my address book, I obviously have her cell number saved. Your account ID with WhatsApp is your real phone number. By doing that, if Viscus and I both have the WhatsApp we’ll automatically see each other on the WhatsApp contact list. No need to add people, no need to “create a community” (yada, yada). Finally, SMART move. Honestly, there is too much social BS going on, so I was encouraged to see this.
WhatsApp offers all the features you know from BBM, and instantly they became the global, multi platform – new – “BBM”.
Who is the loser? RIM. It was their invention and idea, and their amazing implementation, only in this case someone else is going to take the glory.
We’ve all seen it too many times. If RIM is smart, they will change their ways, become “open-er”, and buy WhatsApp before someone else does (Nokie, Android, Skype…). Rim is best positioned to make the move, however somehow I don’t think they will. There is a serious change of heart to be done there to do it, and I’m afraid WhatsApp will be someone else’s win.