In a new interview with the Australian Financial Times, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins lit the fires of a thousand Apple bloggers when he said the iPhone was old news. Out of date. Passé. A little long in the tooth. That sort of thing.
Here, in Heins' own words:
"Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market... They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that," Mr. Heins said.
"History repeats itself again I guess... the rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don't innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly. The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about is now five years old." [Australian Financial Times]
There are two ways to look at this:
Heins is just doing his job
BlackBerry is releasing the Z10 in the U.S. this week. (By the way, we should be rooting for the platform to succeed.) Extolling the virtues of your product while sneaking jabs at a big-name competitor is just part of the CEO job description. Heins — who said he expects 100,000 developer apps to be ready for BlackBerry 10 when the Z10 launches later this week — obviously knows he has a tremendous hill to climb, despite a smattering of positive reviews. Recent IDC estimates suggest that BlackBerry accounts for just 4.5 percent of the global market share, versus Android's 68.8 percent and iOS' 18.8 percent. It's tough out there.
Heins has a point
Despite a few iterative changes, iOS looks more-or-less the same as it did five years ago. Icons still have rounded edges, you still have to enter a password to unlock it, and the operating system is tragically plagued by skeuomorphism. Meanwhile, BlackBerry 10 is fresh; the redesigned OS does a lot of stuff existing phones can't do, most notably giving the user the ability to multitask and run several apps at the same time.
In other words, the iPhone 5, like the newly released Samsung Galaxy S4, is boring. Wired said so, TIME said so, and so did The New Yorker. The BlackBerry Z10 is "the most purely interesting phone to come out so far this year, by a long shot," says Mat Honan at Wired. "But I don't think you'd want one. Likewise, the Lumia 920 and HTC 8X are both really, really interesting. People ask about them." Most consumers, though, (outside of a relatively small percentage of enthusiasts and users with expendable incomes), won't actually purchase them. Smartphones are pricey. A mature, trustworthy device will almost always trump one that's interesting but unproven. Most of the time, anyway.
"The point is that you can never stand still. It is true for us as well," Heins said. "Launching BB10 just put us on the starting grid of the wider mobile computing grand prix, and now we need to win it."
Heins understands the odds. He's going for the Hail Mary.