Blogger Michael Mace has written a great piece on the future demise of Blackberry. His observations on saturation and the number of new users per device sold are excellent but to my mind he misses out one element, an anthropological one: Fashion.
What’s driven sales is BBM. And it’s not be suited businessmen doing it. It’s besotted teens. I went to a great presentation where Shaun Collins of CCS Insight said “Operators never planned for the time when 15 year old girls wanted Blackberries and CEOs wanted iPhones”.
And you could be sure that RIM didn’t either.
What they build is a super secure enterprise grade mail system. BBM was just a nice addition built with no regard for operators – who see it as a leach on SMS revenue – and yet BBM became the way teens text. Security isn’t a major concern when the text reads “Do you fancy my brother?”
Today’s teens don’t use email. They BBM, Facebook chat and use a little IM and SMS. That’s very different from the teens of five years ago who lived on MSN and ICQ.
I’ve said before that there is a difference between style and fashion. Style is enduring, innate. Fashion wanes. When something – be it a type of boot or a new means of communication – there is a tendency to think that it’s the new standard, but the LBD comes along very rarely and the latest fashion at least twice a year.
Sorry Mr Lazaridis, but BBM is only a fashion. Once the teens decide they like something else the greatest asset of BBM, that it is exclusive will become an albatross. In the fashion world Exclusive is good. If you don’t have the right product you are not part of the clique. In technology exclusive is bad. Metcalfe’s law applies and you won’t be able to take advantage of the technology.
What will threaten BBM is a way tomorrow’s teens can have the coolest device – be it an N8, Nexus S or iPhone 4, and communicate with their friends. An ethnographer might use the term ‘tribe’. The means of communication that Blackberry need to watch out for is Facebook Chat, it’s likely that everyone today’s BBM user wants to communicate with already has a Facebook account. All they need to do is use chat on their Blackberry and the lock-in disappears. They can migrate to another platform without losing the social circle.
Somehow I don’t think RIM is going to ‘like’ facebook.
Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com. Follow me on Twitter here.
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