After a number of delays attributed to software glitches, RIM’s BlackBerry Storm will be hitting stores on November 21. The BlackBerry storm will be RIM’s first true push into the consumer smartphone market, and it’s coming in full force. The BlackBerry Storm will be the first touchscreen BlackBerry, an interesting departure for a company who made its name with email-centric devices. Whether or not the Storm will be able to prevent users from switching over to the iPhone remains to be seen, but one intriguing feature is the tactile feedback that the Storm will have. Not everyone is a big fan of the iPhone touchscreen, so RIM decided to ‘fix’ the touchscreen problem by making the whole touchscreen a giant clickable button. In essence, anytime a user presses down on the screen to select or type something, they will actually be pushing the touchscreen down and will hear an accompanying ‘click’. Is this just a gimmick, or has RIM finally solved a common touchscreen complaint? I guess we’ll know in a few weeks.
The x-factor in all of this is the iPhone app store. The app store has emerged as a bona-fide marketplace for a wide variety of applications. Steve Jobs himself noted that immediate success of the App Store was something he’d never seen before in all his years in tech. Interestingly, more than 25% of all downloaded applications are games, and as such, Apple is attempting to position the iPhone/iPod touch as a gaming device as well. During the 80’s and 90’s, one of the reasons PC’s were able to garner a 95% market share was because the majority of applications wouldn’t run on Macs. Could a similar situation arise with the iPhone and its competitors? Will the differentiating factor between phones be their accompanying app stores, and not their feature set? It’s very possible, and BlackBerry is launching their own App store in order to compete in that same space. That might not be enough, however, as an app store is only as good as the developers who develop for it, and it remains to be seen if the BlackBerry Storm will be able to attract a critical mass of developers to make its store an attractive competitor to Apple’s.