A couple of years ago Windows Phone came back into the fray and, to be frank, the take up rate of the operating system has been pretty slow until recently. That being said, the market share has been on a steady, albeit slow, rise. On the other side of the spectrum is Blackberry, the company previously known as RIM. As recently as 2008 they were on top of the world, with the majority of market share. Since then, the sales of Blackberry have been on a steep decline, and we know it can be a slippery slope to recover from.
Now, however, both these ecosystems have seen a reinvention and reimagining. With Windows Phone 8 and Blackberry 10 we have two very interesting ecosystems. Massive investment has gone into both and, for the short-term at least, they will be duking it out for, somewhat unceremoniously, third position in the smartphone race. Windows Phone will of course offer a broader range of hardware since it’s a licensed product and has been in the market longer, but Blackberry has a very loyal following and the introduction of BB10 could very well be its saving grace.
Some might ask why either would covet a third place? Well, I iterate, it might not be for the indefinite future, but definitely for the foreseeable future. For the next 2-3 years we can be certain that no one will overtake the juggernauts that are Apple and Google. iOS and Android and the battle between them (which is a different story altogether) will still reign supreme until something drastic changes or, some other product comes forth with a truly amazing new innovation. So that brings us back to BB10 and WP8. Which will win bronze?
Interestingly, both ecosystems find themselves somewhere between the circus festival that is Android and the solemnness that is iOS in terms of their respective compromises between flexibility and integration. While iOS is solely focused on the cleanest, crispest user experience (even at the expense of user customization), Android is truly open source and invites all to hack away at it until something emerges that the specific user might like (which leads to fragmentation). While both approaches have their merits and problems, each seems to be working for the respective parties.
That begs the question: Are Microsoft and Blackberry playing it safe by falling somewhere in between, and will it pay dividends? The simple answers to these questions is “Yes”. Both ecosystems stay true to their past and their customer base, as a steady increase in market share over the coming months and years will depict. At whose expense remains to be seen. Although the two ecosystems are similar in some ways, they are only very different in the ways the user engages with them and vice versa.
The embodiment of the user experience in BB10 all comes down to the Blackberry Hub. It is a listing of all incoming messages, from any platform, app or social network. It plays homage to the earlier Blackberry devices which had a message list as the default user interface. The Hub encapsulates the newly renamed company’s mission to still make the phone a communications device first and foremost.
In contrast, Windows Phone also uses hubs in its interface, but it is used very differently. The defining UI feature is the Live Tiles, which acts primarily as an app launcher but has some notification capabilities as well. It will take you a bit longer to take in all information on the tiles to have an encompassing view of what is happening on the device, but Windows Phone emphasises contacts over content. The People Hub makes it easier to see the various activities and/or updates from different people and you can even pin people on the top, most visible level of the user interface.
Herewith we see the biggest difference between the two operating systems. With Windows Phone, it’s all about the messenger. With Blackberry, it’s all about the message. In my mind, this will be the defining factor in who will stand “victorious” on the lowest podium spot. How much, if any, of iOS and Android’s market share will Microsoft and Blackberry win remains to be seen, and we will be following the story closely.
But, since all the platforms can relay the same information to the user, preference in the way it relays this information will show whether consumers are willing to embark on a new journey, if removed from iOS or Android.
If you are an Android or iOS user, to which of the two other platforms would you move to if you had to? Let us know in the comments below.