Blackberry: The Once and Future King?

Dutch HollisAs gadget junkies and those of us concerned about the mobile space evaluate the release of Windows Phone 7, I wanted to take a look at a couple stories that have made headlines recently concerning BlackBerry, iPhone and Android.
First up, a recently released Nielsen study reveals just how strong the Android surge is. Android out sold iPhone for the first half of 2010 and it is currently the “single fastest-growing mobile platform.” While Android still trails both iPhone and BlackBerry, it definitely has the steepest slope on the growth chart. So coming out of the third quarter, Android’s share of the US smartphone space is 19% to Apple’s 28% and BlackBerry’s 30%, according to Nielsen.

Despite the tough competition, Research In Motion (BlackBerry’s manufacturer) is trying to retain the top title with some new devices and their new OS 6. These are designed to compete with Android and iOS features that the BlackBerry has lacked or been sorely behind the curve on, including social networking, a better camera and advanced mobile Web browsing capabilities.

Anything that moves the technology forward is great, and BlackBerry fans are definitely excited about the new BlackBerry Bold 9780. But what’s important to note from a mobile Web standpoint is that this new BlackBerry OS has a new browser that is Webkit-based, just like the iPhone and Android browsers.

This means more devices that are able to experience a rich mobile Web. And if you use device-optimized experiences like we recommend, this means it’s time to take another look at what experiences you offer for BlackBerry users. A lot of the previous BlackBerry Web experiences fell into what basically became the “lowest common denominator” experience, but clearly BlackBerry wants to pull its mobile experience up out of that pool and swim in the deep end of the mobile Web.

Will the new Bold be enough? Many BlackBerry fans had high hopes for the touchscreen Torch released this past summer, but it didn’t support the hype. Will the Bold put Android on its heels? Who knows. It’s going to be fun to watch, though. Windows Phone 7 will add another contender to this title fight. If Apple can get the iPhone on another carrier, that changes the game. And the Android-based EVO is showing no signs of slowing.

Here’s what’s certain. Consumers and marketers win with brisk competition like this, especially when it comes to the mobile Web experience.

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