iPhone sells 1,000,000 devices in its opening weekend, Palm sells 300,000 Pre’s in 3 weeks, T-Mobile has 1,000,000 G1’s in circulation. You’d think with these numbers Microsoft and RIM would be pacing their respective offices. But instead both companies are business as usual. I’m almost sure that if you take a visit to Redmond or Toronto, you’ll see RIM and Microsoft execs carrying on the usual tasks of readying Windows Mobile 7 for its 2010 debut and of course working on the successor to the Storm.
Most analysts keep yelling at both companies that their lagging in the innovative space, but based on the numbers RIM and Microsoft are doing just fine. They both have huge market shares and combined still outsell both Apple and Palm. Just in case you’re wondering, there is a reason why both companies are not in a hurry to create the next iPhone, Pre or Android killer. And it lies deep in their strategy.
Ever since Microsoft bought Danger (the makers of the Sidekick), there has been rumors about the company creating its own cellphone. While there might be some truth to it (as the company keeps denying the rumors vehemently), Microsoft isn’t ready to cut HTC, Samsung and Toshiba from their bankrolls yet.
As a corporation, both RIM and Microsoft appeal to a different audience then most attracted to the Pre or iPhone. While the majority of iPhone owners are first time smartphone buyers, those who have Windows Mobile and Blackberry’s are quite aware of what is out there and what fits their needs. Talking to most Blackberry owners you will hear the resounding answer as to why they haven’t adopted an iPhone yet, “it has no proper email support” or “it lacks a keyboard.” While these are “minor” issues to many, to those who have grown to love their Blackberry’s it’s a major deal.
Another reason for the continued success of Windows Mobile and Blackberry is its corporate following. To date the iPhone has a meager corporate base and the Pre is nonexistent. However, both Blackberry and Windows Mobile excel in this arena. To a lot of smartphone owners, buying a smartphone their company approves of is a big deal and with most corporate IT departments still shunning the iPhone Apple has some major hurdles to jump before they cause any real trouble for RIM or Microsoft.
Fancy graphics and cool animations and slick UI’s are not everything in a smartphone. But you already knew that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that no one is taking notice of Apple and Palm, if they were not there would not be custom UI overlays for Windows Mobile, Blackberry or Android. That said, it still is a fact that not everyone is swayed by them. You’d wonder why people would still use the classic Windows theme even though it’s close to two decades old. Well that is the same reason why people still buy the subject phones here.
Loyalty is the word we’re looking for. According to NDP statistics the average Blackberry user has had two or more devices. Following this same trend, an HTC Touch user is more then likely to grab the Touch Diamond 2 or a similar Windows Mobile device. The loyalty that both companies have built within their customer base is commendable and is one that most cell phone companies seek after.
Last but not least not everyone is a fan of the iPhone or Pre. There are those who categorize the iPhone base as just a subdivision of the Macintosh base who will buy any s_ Apple puts out as long as it’s shiny and expensive. Fortunately this is not the case but Apple has been notorious for its fan boy following and many smartphone users don’t like this.
I won’t say however that RIM and Microsoft need not worry because every update the iPhone gets, it comes closer to gaining a little more acceptance from its enemies. But as is the case with the new players in the game, they are the ones who have to work doubly hard as the seasoned players can relax a bit (however the proverbial rabbit and turtle teaches what happens when seasoned players rest too long).
As the case is right now RIM and Windows Mobile isn’t terribly exciting at the moment. But they both carry functionality, customizability and an avid user base and that’s what counts. However they can learn a lesson or two. As a former owner of both Windows Mobile (MotoQ) and Blackberry (Curve 8330), I can say it didn’t take me much to drop my previous phones for the Palm Pre. Neither can I say it will take a miracle for me to keep my Pre. There are those of us who ride the gadget waves and those are the customers that can make or break a company. Did I mention the new Blackberry Tour and the Toshiba TG01 are looking mighty sexy at the moment?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.