Will I be trading in my Blackberry for an iPhone?

I love my BlackBerry. It does exactly what I expect it to do. After years of disappointment with technology, this is as strong an endorsement as I can think of.

I have the same feeling every time I use my Apple MacBook Pro. I can see my daughters having the same experience every time they use their Apple iPods.

Coming from this perspective, the anticipation I have for the Apple iPhone is nothing short of spine-tingling. It’s all anticipation at this point because all I know about the iPhone is what I can read online.

Of course, that won’t stop me from compiling a list of considerations on whether or not I will trade in my BlackBerry for an iPhone:

  • Physicality – RIM nailed the physical aspects of the Blackberry. Apple nailed the physical aspects of the MacBook and iPod, but what about the iPhone? For example, I’m concerned about trading in the highly tactile experience of my BlackBerry 7290’s real keypad for a touchscreen-based, soft keypad. I’ve had the soft-keypad experience via various Palm devices, and that’s precisely why I know I prefer the real keypad on the BlackBerry.
  • Footprint – RIM nailed device footprint. So did Palm. So did Apple with the iPod. In my estimation no handheld representation of a PC, based on some pared-down version of Windows (WindowsCE, aka. “WINCE”), even comes close. Device footprint is the cumulative effect of the operating system, applications, data, etc. In the case of the BlackBerry, Palm, or iPod, there is minimal bloat. The iPhone has to deliver a low-bloat device footprint. Although I like Apple’s chances here, the challenge will be significant as the iPhone is based on Apple OS X. It’s not clear whose CPU will be inside.
  • Propriety – According to one source:

    Apple has long preferred to develop products built on closed, proprietary technologies rather than open standards. Its proprietary iTunes music software, which will not work with devices other than Apple’s iPod, is one example of such a system.

    To some extent, of course, this is true. To a greater extent, however, it is a red herring.

As RIM has demonstrated with the BlackBerry, integration is the real issue. The BlackBerry is proprietary hardware. Because the operating system and applications are all J2ME-based, third parties can and do develop for the Blackberry platform, and RIM facilitates this. This is only the handheld portion of the picture, as integration with enterprise-scale messaging platforms (Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes, etc.) is also key to the BlackBerry’s overall delivered value. Given that the iPhone is based on Apple Mac OS X, there are clearly prospects for integration.

  • Software
    • Office software – Like the Blackberry, office-productivity software is absent on the iPhone. Although this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find such software for your iPhone, it does underscore the fact that office apps are not a focal point. From one perspective, this is an omission. From another, it is highly consistent with closing the expectation/experience gap I raised at the outset.
    • Chat software – RIM provides its own chat software (BlackBerry Messenger); it works well between BlackBerry’s. However, it’s the third-party chat applications that amplify the integration of the BlackBerry with enterprise-messaging systems (via the RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Messenger, IBM Sametime, etc.) or with Internet messaging systems (Yahoo! Messenger, GoogleTalk, etc.). Frankly, I’m surprised that some variant of iChat wasn’t included with the iPhone. Even from the non-business perspective, iChat would be a phenomenal way of further capturing the mindshare of the iPod generation that is currently umbilically tethered to MSN Messenger. I predict Apple will address this oversight before product release.
  • Legalities – The impending legal battle between Cisco and Apple is generating almost as much attention as the iPhone itself. As someone who lived through the RIM vs. NTP situation, while traveling extensively in the US, settlement of this legal matter will be a precondition of purchase.
  • Connectivity – I’ve used BlackBerry’s on CDMA and GSM-based cellular networks. With today’s expectation of IP everywhere, one wonders when an IP-ready version of the BlackBerry will become available. (Today, I only care when I run a Web browser on my BlackBerry.) The iPhone will grok both cellular and IP-based wireless networks on release. Even more, the iPhone is ready for next-generation wireless networks based on the emerging IEEE 802.11n standard. From the connectivity perspective then, the iPhone presents a phenomenal convergence play. RIM has less than six months to ensure it retains mindshare on this increasingly important front.

So, will I be trading in my BlackBerry for an iPhone?

It’s too early to say, but I’m definitely keen to learn more.