Mobility

BlackBerry tosses up the SOS, and Android attempts to answer the call

BlackBerry is trying to right its sinking ship, this time with the help of Android. Can the combination of the Google-powered OS and a QWERTY keyboard save the day? Jack Wallen opines.

BlackBerry

Have you heard of the BlackBerry "Venice" yet? Probably not. Why? Mostly because BlackBerry has been doing the slow fade into irrelevancy for a long time. Just do a search on TechRepublic for anything "BlackBerry." You'll come up with next to nothing.

Rumors surfaced a long time ago that BlackBerry was going to to be jumping on the Android bandwagon (in order to save the sinking ship). Those rumors look to be true and "Venice" is the proof. This new smartphone looks to be an odd amalgamation of a BlackBerry slider device using the Android operating system, and it's heading to AT&T later this year.

Good ol' early 2000 hardware design with a modern platform. What more could you ask for?

My initial reaction to this was "Please no!" But then, I did a bit of digging and was surprised to find out just how many people miss those physical keyboards. As someone who never really got the hang of those tiny keys (I worked with a Palm Treo and had a heck of a time), I was happy the QWERTY keyboards vanished from the mobile landscape.

However, a lot of people still long to have that physical keyboard back in play. Although I may not personally understand this desire to return to the Jurassic age of mobile technology, the want is there. Couple that beloved BlackBerry hardware with the Android platform, and this device could be a winner.

Could.

Actually, truth be told, this will probably wind up yet another failure on the part of BlackBerry. Why? The mobile market has become more cutthroat than any tech market in history. If your logo isn't an apple or a robot, you don't stand a chance. Remember me saying earlier that a lot of people miss those physical keyboards? That lot will be a drop in the bucket in today's market.

That sounds harsh. But take a look at any small contender that has attempted to make headway into the mobile market:

  • Firefox OS
  • webOS
  • Ubuntu Touch
  • Maemo
  • MeeGo
  • OpenMoko
  • Tizen
  • Qtopia
  • QtMoko

Not one of these platforms has managed to make serious headway into the mobile market. The only one listed that has any hope is Ubuntu Touch, and that platform is doomed due to poor design and lack of major interest.

However, we're talking about BlackBerry (aka CrackBerry). That faithful nation who have held on through one poorly executed piece of technology after another might well be ready to jump back on the bandwagon and wrap their anxious arms around (and dance their delighted fingers across) an Android-powered device with that magical QWERTY keyboard.

But again, we're back to numbers. Just how big is that faithful BlackBerry audience? After years of working with well designed, flagship Android and iOS hardware, is there really enough interest that the melange of BlackBerry and Android to warrant another release from the company?

My thought on this is simple. Even with the boost that Android could give BlackBerry, this is way too little, way too late. Add that with the fact that it's highly unlikely that BlackBerry will release a device with a pure Android experience (they'll do their best to make Android look like the BlackBerry OS), and the math becomes easy to calculate. And answer? Irrelevance.

Like Canonical finally shipping Ubuntu Phones, the stranglehold Android and iOS has on the market makes for seemingly impossible odds for any small market device. And that's exactly what BlackBerry is now... small market. And if BlackBerry considers this innovation, they might want to reload their dictionary. This is BlackBerry doing everything they can to bail the water from their ship. Unfortunately, the physical bucket they have at the ready is filled with holes.

What is your take on the issue? Can an Android-powered device with an old school BlackBerry keyboard bring relevance back to the company that once held powerful sway over the smartphone market? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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