Blackberry 10: Why No Physical Keyboard?

The new Blackberry 10 came out this week, to somewhat mixed reviews. The market was unimpressed, with RIMM (soon to be BBRY) falling 12% on the day of the introduction. The NYT’s David Pogue liked it; WSJ’s Walter Mossberg was more circumspect.

But the big surprise to me was the lack of a physical keyboard. I thought for sure they would include one.

Why? There are already tons of rectangular glass touch slabs out there. Apple’s iPhone and all of the Android variants, plus small niche sellers like Microsoft’s Surface. How much is yet another OS in the space likely to garner in terms of marketshare?

What I expected from Blackberry was a combination between the two: The well loved Blackberry physical keyboard cleverly mated to an iPhone like piece of glass. That not only might have created some buzz, it is a product that many of the old Blackberry fans would still buy. And, it could possibly attract people who have tried typing on glass and given up on it.

Sure, voice recognition is getting to the point where mobile devices will eventually be practically keyboard free. But that’s still a few years off, and Blackberry could have made a splash for the folks who are looking for something superior to the current iPhone/Android experience.

From what I see, Blackberry 10 does have quite a few nice innovations, which you can expect to see on future generations of iPhones and Androids. The predictive typing will migrate, as will Balance — BlackBerry’s personal/work sandboxing feature. But the consensus seems to be “too little too late.”

That’s too bad. It looks like Blackberry was remembering their glory days, rather than assessing the market that exists here and now. There was an opportunity to create a unique niche between the old — Blackberry with physical keyboards — and the current generation of smart phones. That is a substantial niche, somewhere between 5-15 percent, if not higher. For some context, Microsoft currently has a 3.5% share in mobile smart phones.

Opportunity missed . . .


Mossberg: BlackBerry Release Is No Perfect 10 (WSJ)
• Pogue: More Things to Love About the BlackBerry 10 (NYT)
• 5 things that could make BlackBerry 10 a hit (CNN)
• Inside BlackBerry’s last stand (Fortune)
• BlackBerry Shares Fall After Launch Underwhelms Investors (Bloomberg)

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