Just as RIM launched their big reveal of the BlackBerry Torch and the new BlackBerry 6 operating system, governments in the Middle East such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, are threatening to cut all local BlackBerry users off because they (the government, that is) can’t snoop on the encrypted traffic between BlackBerry users.
The problem is that if RIM were facing this kind of issue in more open societies it would probably be able to challenge this through the courts, but given the autocratic nature of the countries in question it seems that it has two choices, comply or shut up shop.
Even more worrying is that it appears that more and more countries have suddenly woken up to how BlackBerry moves information around the world and suddenly they are jumping up and down and shouting, “me too, me too”.
How the company will deal with half the world’s governments suddenly demanding that they change their business practises and let governments snoop (at will) on people’s private conversations is anyone’s guess.
It’s not like RIM needs any more challenges at the moment. For the first time since the start of the crackberry addiction, more Android phones were sold in the US than BlackBerrys. Even with the bad press that Apple is getting around the iPhone4 antenna issue, the damn things are still flying off the shelves. And then there is Windows Phone 7 that is going to hit the stores later this year. BlackBerry needs to come to the party and it is hoping that the combination of the Torch and the new operating system will be enough to keep it in the game.
For the most part I think that if staying in the game is its intention then it has done enough. From looking at reports from the launch they have fixed a lot of the issues with the OS that irked me (like getting a real web browser).
That combined with a decent range of handsets, from the Torch to the Curve and the Pearl, mean that corporates and keyboard junkies will keep on buying handsets just because that is what they have always had or because that is what their corporate IT department says they need to have to see their mail on the go.
BlackBerry will, however, keep losing market share, simply because most of the new entrants into the market are choosing to go with the more attractive offerings from the likes of Samsung, Apple and HTC.
BlackBerry has, over the course of the last two years, moved from being the dominant force in the smartphone market, to one that is constantly having to play catch up with companies that have a much better understanding of what the majority of users want and which are able to deliver it faster.
The jury is out on whether RIM is following the same path that Palm trod in the PDA market, but I, for one, am not planning to buy a Torch any time soon.
RIM’s BlackBerry 6, Torch announcements and encryption woes << comments and views