Can a BlackBerry be as cool as an iPhone? Well, it can certainly try. In fact, it has tried twice, coming up with a new version of its touchscreen smartphone, called the Storm 2. According to a report in today's New York Times, the new device is essentially a "do-over" of the original Storm, which BlackBerry's maker, Research In Motion, designed to help Verizon wireless retain customers who might defect to the AT&T wireless network, so they can use Apple's iPhone. Among the Storm 2's many improvements: It gives the user the sensation of pushing a physical button when pressing a number on the glass touchscreen.
The second effort by BlackBerry is another example of the degree of competition in the smartphone business, which Knowledge at Wharton described in a May article titled, "As Smartphones Proliferate, Will One Company Emerge as the Clear Market Winner?" The article noted that RIM co-chief James Balsillie had described the competitive environment as "a land grab," an analogy also used by Wharton management professor David Hsu: "For these companies, the ideal is to be the preferred next-generation smartphone. Once that happens, users are … locked in."
Lock-in refers to the practice of requiring users to use hardware and software from a prescribed set of vendors. Apple has achieved a degree of lock-in with its iPhone and App Store; its customers can use only those applications available from Apple's online market. Part of the Storm 2's mission will be to convince developers to create software programs — or apps – to increase the phone's appeal.