This is difficult to write. I’ve loved my Blackberry’s for almost a decade. I’ve stuck solid through the temptations of many many phones over all those years. Why? It was rock solid, and I need that keyboard.

For the last week, I’ve been using the HTC ChaCha. The ChaCha is an Android based phone from HTC which has both a touchscreen and a physical keyboard.

How can a simple (and cheap) phone like the HTC make me second guess the Blackberry obsession I’ve had for so long? Well that is simple – its the vision to the future of both a touchscreen+physical keyboard combo, and the insight into just how well Android can be on the half size screen that makes me think.

Click continue reading for my thoughts on the Future of Blackberry.

Like I say, I feel a little dirty even thinking that Blackberry should walk away from its successful past toward the Android Operating system now so common on smartphones around the world.

But lets be honest, Blackberry (Research in Motion) has dropped the ball.  It feels like 2 years since there was anything genuinely successful for the company.  The Torch (Slide out screen over keyboard) was a nice device, but it wasn’t something that would smash out of the ballpark in the Smartphone race.

If we glance into our crystal ball around 3-5 years, we can see the continued success of the Apple iOS, massive growth in Android across HTC, Samsung, Sony and others, along with a great new effort from Windows Mobile on Nokia and others.  Where though does Blackberry’s own OS fit in?  It’s undergone radical changes in recent years to bring it into the brave new world and shake its email heritage – but has that been enough?

In my view – no.

The OS is just catching up, its running behind the pack and it looks nicer now than it did and while Apple’s iOS is stale too (the bland app icon only screens is ageing fast – but the quantity and quality of apps make it a winner), however in comparison to both Windows Phone and Android it’s miles behind.

So let’s analyse why Blackberry have been so successful.  From my personal point of view anyway.

  • Great devices: The physical devices have been fantastic, the curve keyboard was a revolution, making typing ever so easy.  The look and feel of the devices and speed also excelled.  They failed dismally during the Storm days and there are new full touchscreen devices coming, but the rock solid Bold and Subsequent 9700 series have been the poster children for Blackberry.
  • Super fast Push Email and Messaging: This was the reason to stick with Blackberry, fully push email not some in between solution, and device to device messaging outside of the mobile carriers txt messaging or mms messaging.  Apple have moved toward this with iMessage in iOS 5, but it’s not a patch on Blackberry
  • Encryption and Security: For a long time IT departments wouldn’t consider another device because they couldn’t hold a candle to Blackberry for security and encryption – heck, the President of the United States has a Blackberry!  However, here too there has been great progress on both iOs and Android.
  • Compression: Data rates is a big issue – especially in Australia, so toe to toe the ability for the Blackberry to push data around the mobile networks more efficiently than other devices has been a real winner – this has not been match yet by other devices.

So, where does that leave us?

Currently, there are equal or better devices out there, even the ChaCha is a contender compared to the Bold, given its touch screen – the 9900 due later this year follows that feature-set with a touch screen and a keyboard, but they feel cheap often, and don’t offer the quality of the Blackberry Devices.

However with an operating system lagging behind – has no-one in Waterlook (Research in Motion’s head office) considered building rock solid Android integration that takes ownership of the device and operating system.

HTC have done this with success with their HTC Sense layer – it’s fantastic, but it could be done further.

Let’s look at how Blackberry works – each DEVICE has a unique PIN number (Combination of letters and numbers) which essentially allows Blackberry’s own servers to push encrypted and compressed data packets from device to device.

So, create a software layer that associates a unique PIN to a device or even to a user, and initiate that very same process – surely that’s not rocket science?

That would leave us with a quality device made by the people famous for smartphones for longer than Apple, and it would feature Super fast push email and messaging, encrypted and compressed data and all on a robust and globally supported Android Operating System.

Why Android?  Well, at my glance, it’s got the potential to beat the others – it’s not there yet – but build a Blackberry moderated App World onto Blackberry Android Devices and you can build a store to challenge Apple.

Time and time again I say that Apple win the App race because they have strict rules and moderation of Apps.  Blackberry could do that. Simple.

Look, this won’t happen – Blackberry is too big a company to walk away from it’s core – but – if they were really serious, they’d get some heads around a table and put aside all resevations to say how can Blackberry be the Number 1 smartphone device maker on the planet – right now, HTC are trundling toward that title, with Sony and Samsung pushing behind them – it’s an exciting race, one which I think Blackberry can win – just not with the Operating System they have today.

I could be wrong.  Please Blackberry, prove me wrong, or embrace change.

Let me know what you think – comment below.