Why a touchscreen BlackBerry is needed now

 Personal Tech, Apple, BlackBerry

After using the iPhone 3G for the past few weeks and watching others doing the same thing, it quickly became apparent that the true nature of this industry doesn’t revolve around the fact that a certain product is unique or that it’s even on a good carrier.

Instead, for the average person who doesn’t spend time reading tech blogs and probably doesn’t care too much about the specs of a product wants to know one thing when comparing a BlackBerry to an iPhone: which is cooler?

Now I know that it’s difficult to simply downplay the desires of the less tech-savvy, but it’s true. How many times have you asked your mother and father if they want a specific smartphone because of its support for 3G and push email, only to stare back at a confused face that doesn’t understand what you’re saying?

Probably more times than you can count.

But when you get those same people in the store where they’re forced to make a decision between the BlackBerry flavor of the month or the iPhone 3G, chances are, they’re going to pick Apple’s phone for two reasons: hype and aesthetics.

Maybe I’m over-simplifying the process and people are looking for other things in their cell phones, but either way, it doesn’t matter. When you look at a BlackBerry with an app store, push contacts and calendars, and stellar business integration, you quickly realize that the iPhone 3G now offers the same options. And for around the same price, you’re forced to choose based on the main differences between the two products, assuming you’re willing to work with AT&T. And the way I see it, it’s the touchscreen and the perceived “futuristic” appeal of the iPhone 3G that puts it over the top.

And although it may not want to admit it and it usually likes to say that a touchscreen isn’t the best solution for using a smartphone, RIM is desperate to get a touchscreen BlackBerry out the door. And the company's long-rumored BlackBerry Thunder is probably one of its worst kept secrets.

The touchscreen device will ostensibly offer the same functionality you already see in the iPhone and is prime evidence that RIM fully understands that when sitting next to the iPhone at the AT&T store, its BlackBerry looks woefully inept, regardless of whether it is or not.

So if RIM understands that the touchscreen really is the future, it needs to make sure the Thunder hits store shelves as soon as possible. Rampant speculation suggests that it’ll be a Verizon Wireless exclusive, which could help differentiate the two products, but will it be enough to justify the changeover from Apple to RIM?

No one knows.

But if nothing else, RIM needs to be made aware that time is running out and the longer its BlackBerry looks like the second-rate iPhone, the sooner Apple will solidify itself in the enterprise space.

RIM needs to act now, officially announce the Thunder, and get ready to confront the iPhone on its own turf. If it doesn’t, there could be some trouble ahead for RIM.

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