Research In Motion is going to stick with developing devices like the Blackberry, because smartphones are superior to netbooks. This assertion is not surprising given its source: Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, which makes the Blackberry. But his rationale for why smartphones will win-out is surprising.
Balsillie, speaking to Reuters, explained his thinking pretty simply: “Form factor is a personal preference” he notes, and it places constraints on communication device’s designs. He thinks a device that you “can hold up to your ear and clip onto your belt,” is the ideal, assuming it’s big enough to have a battery which lasts “the better part of the day.” That basically rules out netbooks, which don’t slip into your pocket or hang from your belt, and their power-hungry CPUs, drives and displays eat through their large batteries in much less than a day.
As far as he goes with this reasoning, Balsillie’s got something of point. But his next argument about how the smartphone–specifically the BlackBerry–may evolve seem pretty strange. If users want richer media experiences, or need to do things like edit documents, which don’t fit in well with the form-factor of a phone then Balsillie suggests they can simply connect up keyboards and displays–it’s all about smartphone “peripherals and Bluetooth.”
Has Balsille gone bonkers? Nobody wants to carry around a smartphone, a display and a keyboard–it’s simply not convenient. And one key factor in many a product’s success is convenience. Meanwhile, Stutz seems to have blinkers on, and he’s happily ignoring the wild success of the netbook in the marketplace, for both private and business uses.
Netbooks aren’t going away: the newest generation are increasingly coming with 3G broadband capability, so you can use them to place voice calls, video calls, and work on documents–far surpassing the BlackBerry’s capabilities. There are even some upcoming netbooks that may carry Google’s smartphone OS Android aboard. Perhaps this explains why Balsillie feels the need to pooh-pooh the mini computers.
The smartphone is not going away either. The two devices have different roles to play, and current technology limitations means these roles don’t overlap well when you try to combine them in a single device. Eventually technology like roll-up displays and advanced touch-sensitivity will enable a hybrid that can cover all the bases, but by that point it won’t be called either a smartphone or a netbook.