In light of Ken Camp and others problems with battery life on the Nokia N95, there's a particularly interesting item on Barron's this morning about RIM's efforts to position the BlackBerry as a consumer device. In a series of analyst meetings, RIM has been pushing the BlackBerry curve's multimedia capabilities pretty heavily. The analysts have written:
Rob Sanderson, American Technology Research: On the consumer/retail side of things, the “Curve looks like another hit product, with much better multimedia capabilities than the Pearl,” says Sanderson. Other models will follow this year, including the 8830, and a version of the Pearl to be carried by Sprint (S), and multimedia may become a bigger part of the Blackberry. Starting with the Curve, the Blackberry’s secret weapon in playback of media files could be its battery life, says Sanderson. “Management said the Curve will play three full length movies without completely draining the battery. Long battery life has always been important to cell phone and smartphone users and will likely be important to converged multimedia devices.”
Peter Misek, Canaccord Adams: media could be a killer app for RIMM the way personal information management was with Blackberry’s road warrior customers — that, in effect, the Blackberry does a better job of organizing all your media in a convenient, easy-to-use fashion. Apple’s (AAPL) forthcoming iPhone may well do that, but analysts, including Misek, are touting Blackberry’s ability to interconnect with subscription music services, rather than just letting you buy tracks from iTunes. “BlackBerry is a new platform,” says Misek, “and the analogy for music is the same for PIM".
The point that's being missed is that RIM is really a different kind of company from Apple, Nokia, or Microsoft. Like those companies, RIM provides handsets and software. But unlike them, RIM is also a network operator, and not just a software or hardware company. More to the point, though, Misek and Sanderson's comments ought to give Microsoft and Nokia pause. The Apple faithful are going to buy the iPhone, warts and all, when it ships but there will be a battle for other consumers. RIM seems to have thrown down the gauntlet by reframing the discussion around basics like power consumption.