In Blazing Saddles, the townsfolk of Rock Ridge are readying to flee their outlaw-infested burg. Sheriff Bart approaches town leader and one-flavor ice cream parlor owner Howard Johnson, imploring him not to desert their town. "Can't you see this is the last act of a desperate man?" Sheriff Bart pleads. Replies HoJo, "We don't care if it's the first act of Henry V – we're leaving!"
This high-brow punny scene popped into my warped consciousness when I pondered consumer response to the newest BlackBerry 10 operating system and the new BlackBerry phone, the Z10, which I explored in some depth yesterday.
In essence, these newest incarnations of BlackBerry are designed to keep you from deserting the OS, or maybe even to entice guilt-laden CrackBerry defectors to return.
Yes, both the BlackBerry 10 operating system and the Z10 are impressive – but they'd have to be, considering how horse-and-buggy BlackBerry's old operating system seemed compared to Starship Enterprise-like iPhone and Android models, and the utter failure of BlackBerry's previous attempts at a touchscreen phone.
Of course, once Sheriff Bart invoked the name of Randolph Scott, Howard and his neighbors decided to stay and fight it out. Whether or not the BlackBerry name by itself will evoke similar Scott-ish loyalty is anyone's guess, but I cannot recommend it.
What happened to BlackBerry
My primary reason for caution is based on what looks to be this BlackBerry hail Mary, what seems to be a last, desperate act.
Less than three years ago, BlackBerry lorded over the smartphone world. Even after iPhone had been available for two years, BlackBerry still maintained a 55.3 percent smartphone market share over iPhone (19.5 percent).
Then three things happened.
The first Android phones were released late in 2008, but began to proliferate a year later, validating Apple's approach.
Then came iPad in 2010. Realizing its error in ignoring the business buyer when it unveiled the iPhone, Apple carefully laid the foundation for corporate adoption of the iPad before the public ever got wind of it. iPad then served as a Trojan Horse for executive acceptance of iPhone.
Finally, BlackBerry failed to adapt – or even recognize the threat iPad and iPhone posed. It blissfully ignored the touchscreen revolution, believing its keyboard was king. Slowly but surely, however, BlackBerry market share began to slip. U.S. and multinational companies and especially governments began to abandon BlackBerry for iPad and iPhone.
And it didn't help that BlackBerry 10 had been publicly gestating and delayed for more than year as the company's finances and fortunes collapsed.
The U.S. Air Force. NOAA (National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration). Halliburton. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Shell Oil. Kimberly-Clark. Nike. The Coast Guard. Facebook. Danske Bank. Bed, Bath & Beyond. The Federal Air Marshall Service. Caldwell Banker. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board). ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Qantas. The ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). The TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Even the U.S. Defense Department has relaxed its BlackBerry-only policy.
And on the day the new BlackBerry Z10 handset went on sale in its native Canada, the Australian Treasury Department announced it was switching to iPhone.
UPDATE: The day after this story was posted, HomeDepot announced it was switching from BlackBerry to iPhone.
And nearly simultaneously, market research firm comScore announced new U.S. smartphone market shares; Android 53.4 percent, up .9; iPhone 36.3 percent, up 2; and BlackBerry 6.4 percent, down 2 points.
Should you switch/come back?
BlackBerry 10 and the Z10 could respectively be the greatest operating system and smartphone ever invented, and it'd still be hard for BlackBerry to overcome this mass desertion-slash-Android/Apple dominance.
Microsoft, with all its assets and a wonderful operating system, actually lost .7 of a point in share last quarter and is down to a measly 2.9 percent of the smartphone market. And BlackBerry is not nearly as well-heeled as Microsoft.
And while BlackBerry 10 contains some wonderfully creative features and functions, none are "must haves." And as much of an improvement the Z10 is over past BlackBerry touchscreen attempts, it is hardly revolutionary.
In practical terms, with so many companies and government agencies adopting Apple and eschewing BlackBerry, app, accessory and content developers are unlikely to rush to develop product for the Z10, which means a lag in the amenities that make Android and especially iPhone such successes.
Evoking the BlackBerry name may conjure Randolph Scott-like loyalty and nostalgia, but actually buying one may be the desperate act.