Users Drop BlackBerries For Competitors' Apps

Research In Motion has seen its once-dominant share of the smartphone market eaten away by the iPhone and Android. Bloomberg technology reporter Rich Jaroslovsky tells Renee Montagne that consumers are turning away from BlackBerries, in part, because competitors offer many more apps.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

The maker of the BlackBerry is rolling out a new line of its smartphones. Research in Motion, or RIM, once dominated the market. Its BlackBerries were so addictive, the earned the nickname Crackberry. But the BlackBerry's popularity has been eaten away by the iPhone and Andriod-based devices.

We spoke with technology columnist Rich Jaroslovsky of Bloomberg News. He says consumers are turning away from BlackBerries partly because competitors offer way more apps.

RICH JAROSLOVSKY: The biggest thing that the iPhone and now Android have achieved is to create ecosystems around themselves, developers who are constantly coming up with new and interesting and fun applications that you can run on these devices. They're really small computers, whereas BlackBerry has remained what it was at the beginning, much more of a communication device and email and phone device.

MONTAGNE: Are there people out there who just want to use a phone as a communication device? Or have we really reached a point where you want the options?

JAROSLOVSKY: I think we're getting close to the point where every phone pretty much is going to be a smartphone. And certainly, BlackBerry has the characteristics of a smartphone. But a lot of BlackBerry's business was built not on appealing to you and me, to individual consumers, but on appealing to companies. There are very robust security features on the BlackBerry. It's made it sort of beloved of corporate IT managers. And so for years, a lot of people were getting BlackBerries not because they went into a store and said ooh, I want that, but they were getting BlackBerries because their company made them carry them. And that really is changing right now, as well.

MONTAGNE: Because the balance has shifted in what companies want?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, the companies still want to be able to feel comfortable about what their employees are carrying. But there's this wonderful buzz phrase in the information technology area called the consumerization of IT. And what that means is, basically, the legions of employees coming into their corporate IT departments waving their Android phones, their iPhones, their iPads and saying I bought this with my own money. I want to be able to do work on it.

MONTAGNE: Why didn't RIM see this coming?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, I think they did. And they have tried to make the BlackBerry devices more attractive, and in some ways, they've succeeded. But to a certain extent, they've been prisoners of their own previous success, because the people who love BlackBerries really love BlackBerries, and some of the very same things that made the BlackBerry so attractive to users early on and that its fans really adore sort of turn off the larger audience, things like the physical keyboard, which a lot of people absolutely love typing on a physical keyboard, but a lot of people feel that that's so 2005.

MONTAGNE: Where does it go from here? You know, is the BlackBerry - are its days numbered?

JAROSLOVSKY: I think they are right now sort of treading water. They purchased a company that makes a very highly regarded operating system, and it will migrate to their phones, but probably not until 2012. So what you may be seeing right now with these phones that are just hitting the market are kind of the last wave of the old BlackBerry, and a huge amount will be riding on what happens when they come out with the next generation of BlackBerries, and will that achieve a kinder reception in the marketplace.

MONTAGNE: Rich Jaroslovsky is a technology columnist at Bloomberg News.

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