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Third, BlackBerry must give consumers specific capabilities that they want but can't get from other smartphone makers. Trying to match the sheer volume of content and apps available from Apple, Google, and Microsoft is a futile endeavor. BlackBerry recently announced relationships with music and video content providers including Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. While it's easy to establish such relationships when you have tens of millions of users, leveraging them to drive growth is not so easy. BlackBerry is trying to woo consumers at precisely the same time that Microsoft and Nokia are making a big push for Windows 8. Though BlackBerry has done a commendable job attracting developers to its new BB 10 operating system, it is unlikely to finish above fourth place. BlackBerry's top priority should be to empower consumers by moving the functionality of their credit cards and keys into their smartphones.
Follow the Leader
Apple and Google are vulnerable precisely because they are the market leaders. While both want the market to continue growing, neither wants to jeopardize its current business. Apple and Google act as if they have forever to develop mobile commerce. The iPhone doesn't yet support NFC. That's probably because Apple is concerned about NFC's impact on form factor and cost. And while some Android phones do support NFC, Google is pushing for NFC to be more "open" to ensure there is always a place for Google Wallet. With Apple hesitating and Google mired in politics, now is the time for a hungrier and more nimble player to jump start the mobile commerce market.
BlackBerry has strayed from what made it a success. Trying to resuscitate a fading device management business, hiring music superstar Alicia Keys as Global Creative Director, and adopting a new name--these actions do not address the real problem. BlackBerry needs to revive the spirit that enabled it to design the first truly popular smartphones.
Ira Brodsky is a St. Louis, Missouri-based consultant and the author of The History of Wireless: How Creative Minds Produced Technology for the Masses.