Rich Tehrani has a great post on the challenges ahead for RIM. I had a very similar conversation with a close friend at RIM about a year ago. What I told him was that usability, especially, was going to bite them hard if Microsoft and others put their minds to solving the email problem.
Rich’s comments on Blackberry Server are not quite on the mark. He says:
The Blackberry Server is everywhere but it is little more than a crutch that allows you to access large documents on slow networks by enabling the server to take out the crucial text and send just that to you. But as networks speed up do we need a server to help us in any way? It can take longer for the server to open and analyze a document than it takes to just send the document over EVDO in the first place.
The server he should be looking at is the Blackberry Exchange Server, which is a little more functional than this. It does a number of things, including providing cellular access to services inside the corporate network, synchronized email, calendar and contacts with the exchange server. Something like 80% of RIM users are now corporate users and using BES. The carrier server is, as Rich says, little more than a crutch.
Even so, these are features that have been built by Microsoft for Exchange. RIM’s advantage, at the moment, is momentum — the fact that nobody does email better. What I need from them is:
Better support for attachments — better viewers, the ability to play back a WAV file (since my voice mail system at the office is dropping voice mail into my inbox), more viewers, and the ability to save an attachment to my PC over the air.
More emphasis on phone from the cardfile application. Right now, the cardfile assumes you might want to do any number of things, and presents a great long list of possibilities. While driving, trying to phone someone by name is nearly impossible. I want to be able to pick the RIM device up in my right hand, and from whatever application I am in, begin tapping out the letters of a name, and have the system assume I want to call that person on the most likely device they can be reached at. Anything less is a failure.