Few companies have as much at stake in their next act as Research In Motion as it prepares to unveil its next-generation, BlackBerry 10 operating system and upgraded devices.
Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, once the market leader in smartphones, has seen its fortunes shift under the weight of the duopoly of Apple's iOS and Google's Android. Getting back on top means keeping its edge in business messaging while presenting itself as a fun and easy to use platform.
'Rich Mobile Experience'
This week RIM took a strong step in that direction by announcing that its newly rebranded BlackBerry World storefront, previously known as BlackBerry App World, will offer downloads of music and videos, like Apple's iTunes and Google Play.
RIM says it will be an "extensive catalog" with content from all major studios, with most movies coming to the store the same day they are released on DVD, with previews and a selection of payment options.
"Music and video content is an integral part of a rich mobile experience," said RIM's Frank Boulben, chief marketing officer, in announcing the new service. "People want easy and convenient access to their favorite music, movies and TV shows wherever they are. "RIM is committed to working with content providers to bring the best, up-to-date content to our customers with BlackBerry 10."
At the same time, Nokia is rolling out an upgrade to its Music app that allows streaming for its Lumia phones, which are powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone. The songs will stream via Mix Radio, a competitor of Pandora, for $3.99 a month. New features include unlimited skips (unlike Pandora) and unlimited downloads, rather than just four Mixes in the free service. You can also download lyrics and get an app for your desktop or other connected device.
"It's the only smartphone music service out there offering access to millions of songs out of the box without the need to sign up, sign in or suffer adverts between enjoying the music," said Jyrki Rosenberg, Nokia's vice president for entertainment, in a Nokia blog post announcing the service.
Challenge to iTunes
Strategy Analytics wireless expert Neil Shah said that ensuring quick music and video availability for handsets was essential in keeping up the trend set by Apple.
"It's all about building ecosystems and stickiness," he told us. "Apple led the way, building iTunes and an App Store ecosystem creating a substantial lock-in with an opportunity to cross-sell other devices and services in the iOS ecosystem. However, other OEMs are now trying to build or rebuild (in Nokia and RIM's case) their own stickiness factor to catch up with Apple or Google."
The pressure is on Apple now to stand out in the pack once again.
"This means at some point Apple will also have to rejuvenate its iTunes model to remain as relevant as it is right now," Shah said.