What does Google Maps on iPhone mean for Blackberry?

UPDATE January 19, 2012:  Looks like RIM is embracing the fact that their core business isn’t necessarily making handsets: RIM to allow BB email on iPhone and Android

This Wired article, talking about why Google would help make iPhone even better, by putting Google maps on iPhones, got me thinking.

Why Google Just Made iPhone King: Ads

He is absolutely right, of course. Google’s core business is advertising and Android is mainly a means to an end for them. By enabling iPhone (and my beloved Blackberry) Google is keeping its eye on the big picture.

But what if Google had a bigger need to drive Android handset sales? Would they withhold Google apps from iPhone then, trying to drive users to Android? My bet is no. Because it would be a losing game. You win in handsets by delivering the best all around handset, not by making minor dents in how good someone else’s is.

Someone in my Twitter feed called iPhone “the best phone on the planet“. Many would agree with him. That’s why iPhone is so popular. Google is smart enough to know that one map application wouldn’t change their minds. If Google wants to win in handsets, it will win by making handsets that more people consider “the best“.

Which leads me to RIM. RIM’s strategy seems to be to compete in handsets. With BB10 they are trying to win back customers who have defected to iPhone and Android, hold onto those of us who still prefer Blackberry, and maybe even convert those who have never used Blackberry. Will they win? How much of each group is reasonable to think they will win?

Much as I adore my Blackberry and all its predecessors back to my first little pager in 1999, I know I’m not the mass market. I don’t like touch screens. I type a lot – to search, write, communicate, make notes, you name it. My thumbs are always on the keyboard tapping away. I view/listen/watch much less than most people so I value the keyboard more than screen size. I’m not a game player so I don’t worry whether they’re available for my device. But RIM can’t survive on oddballs like me alone.

They can – and should – maximize their corporate sales, where communication and security are essential, and maybe that’s enough to make them the Betamax of handsets. (That’s NOT a bad thing, by the way. Betamax lost the mass market but was highly profitable in specialty video markets where video quality mattered more than the recording time that drove VHS’s consumer success.)

But what if RIM were to rethink what their core business is? What if the answer turned out to be secure communication software, and mobile keyboard technology? Imagine a market where iPhone or Android devices were available with Blackberry software and keyboards. What would that look like? Would Apple use them? They’re embracing Google maps, so you never know.

Food for thought.

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About Sandi_Jones
Technical marketer, product developer, geek, unconventional entrepreneur. I fell in love with technology in the mid-90's, found my inner geek, and never looked back.

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