So I was talking to the 10 year old daughter of one of my friends last night and as she educated me on the latest “cool” cell phone trends for teenagers, she made a point about “Apps” which I think is incredibly interesting and relevant for the DotNetNuke community.
I am a former Blackberry user ( I switched to an iPhone earlier this year ) and it was my assumption that Blackberries are primarily used by professional users for business purposes. Well last night it was emphasized to me that Blackberries are now in high demand by the teen and pre-teen crowd as well. In fact, in my local area they are the cell phones in highest demand by all the “cool” kids. So what is going on here?
Well, the first thing you need to understand is that this demographic uses text messaging extensively for communication ( ie. my daughter sends 2-3 thousand texts per month and this is not considered to be high usage as compared to some of her friends ). The Blackberry has a tactile keyboard which is much more efficient for typing than the more modern touch screens ( off topic – I think it was brilliant on the part of Microsoft to ensure that both input methods are available in the new Windows 7 Mobile phones ). But keyboard alone is not a distinguishing feature to drive Blackberry demand – there are plenty of cell phones available which provide keyboard input.
The main feature which is driving demand among this demographic is an App! There is an App called the Blackberry Messenger ( BBM ) which allows Blackberry users to send messages to one another for free over the Blackberry network. There is obviously some economic benefit to this App as parents do not need to shell out for unlimited texting plans; however, there are other reasons as well. Apparently BBM has other features which are more compelling than traditional texting. One of the main features is that it provides status updates in regards to message delivery. What this means is that when you send a message to someone else, the system will tell you if it was delivered and, more importantly, if it was opened by the recipient. So on BBM you know the detailed status of every message you send – and the kids find this additional context to be very valuable.
When my own daughter started asking for a Blackberry about 6 months ago ( which I have still not given in to ) I thought this was perhaps only a local phenomenon for kids in her peer group in our area. However when I travelled to The Netherlands earlier this year I had a conversation with Rob Suurland, a member of the executive of the Software Developer Network, and he told me that his teenage children were also demanding Blackberry cell phones – for the exact same reasons ( BBM and keyboard ). So this appears to be a global trend – a trend which is “viral” within the teen demographic. No doubt this is good news for Research in Motion ( RIM ), as it has allowed them to tap into an entirely new group of users – and a very influential group at that as they will be key influencers of cell phone adoption in the future.
The main takeaway from this whole story is that Blackberry demand is being driven by an App – Blackberry Messenger. Now this should not be surprising, as it could be argued that the rise of iPhone and Android cell phones is directly attributable to the high number of Apps which are available for those platforms. Similarly, in the social networking world, Facebook and Twitter have both benefitted from a rich App ecosystem. In the open source CMS market, the dominant platforms are Wordpress, Joomla!, Drupal, and DotNetNuke – all of which have active third party developer communities and thousands of platform extensions available. In fact, if you go back in history you will find that Windows became dominant on the desktop because of specific productivity Apps and continues to dominate today for this same reason. And on the server side, operating system market share is being driven by App adoption, with the number of LAMP web applications playing an influential role in growing the number of Linux deployments worldwide ( which is why Microsoft has been investing significant resources in trying to encourage folks to deploy these apps on Windows in “WAMP” or “WIMP” configurations ).
Trust a 10 year old to shed some enlightenment on a complex topic ( thanks Olivia )…