Is Apple scared of RIM?

Now that the BlackBerry Storm has hit store shelves, should Apple be concerned? The timing of the iPhone 2.2 software update's release seems to indicate that it already is.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Is it a coincidence that Apple's iPhone 2.2 update was released on the same day the BlackBerry Storm hit stores with a touch screen, 3G connectivity, and enterprise-friendly functionality that rivals anything Apple has on the market?

I think not.

Today's iPhone update is Apple's first salvo of many in its fight against Research In Motion for dominance over the cell phone industry. Some might say Apple's decision to update the iPhone is pure coincidence, but I don't think that the company is that naive.

Apple realizes that RIM is releasing a major offering that could shake Steve Jobs and Co. to its core, and it doesn't want anyone to think it's not doing everything it can to continually update its own product.

But Apple's decision to release the update just as RIM releases the Storm strikes me as one of the most fascinating moves the company has made in quite some time. After checking out the update and considering the timing, I can't help but wonder if Apple is more than a little concerned about the BlackBerry Storm and RIM in general.

Sure, it's easy for some to say Apple has no reason to be scared of RIM, because the iPhone's popularity keeps growing, and its business functionality is now on par with RIM's, but I'm not so quick to agree. The BlackBerry Storm appeals to consumers who want a "next generation" cell phone, as well as company employees that want a new BlackBerry with all the extra fixins, to boot.

Say what you will, but Apple is scared. And it should be.

I have a feeling that the cell phone war between Apple and RIM will look much like the operating-system war Apple is fighting against Microsoft: RIM will hold the business ground and Apple the consumer space.

That said, neither company wants it to end that way, and perhaps that's why RIM is finally bringing a touch screen to the market, and Apple is making business functionality a key selling point with iPhone 3G.

Regardless, the BlackBerry Storm provides the kind of experience that we haven't seen yet from RIM. Unlike its previous iterations, in which a physical keyboard was the centerpiece of its strategy, RIM finally woke up and realized that the future is in the touch screen because that's where Apple brought us. And although it's probably not the most ideal form of text entry for business professionals, I think most will see past that, realize that the touch screen can be a better alternative, in some cases, and choose the Storm over any other device.

But perhaps the real reason why Apple should be scared of RIM is not because RIM is changing the way cell phones are made, or altering the dynamics of the industry. Apple should be scared because of its own shortcomings with the iPhone 3G.

Consider this: the BlackBerry Storm offers cut-and-paste (duh!) functionality, its touch screen provides tactile feedback, it works as a tethered modem (a major plus for businesses), allows for expandable memory, boasts video recording, and the battery is removable. The list goes on, but I think that grouping proves the point well: the iPhone 3G is not as capable as we may think.

Now, that's not to say that there aren't any shortcomings associated with the Storm, but let's face it: the number of shortcomings in the iPhone 3G far outweigh those found in the Storm.

Although it will never admit it, and Apple will claim that its iTunes integration and App Store makes it a better choice, you can bet that company executives are running scared Friday. Even though Apple created this category and revolutionized the market, RIM just one-upped the founders, and Apple knows that.

Say what you will about RIM, but the fact that the Storm's battery is removable, and it can be used as a tethered modem, is enough to justify companies picking them up for employees. And with the help of a touch screen and all the goodies consumers enjoy in the iPhone 3G, the Storm is an attractive choice for teenagers, college students, and even stay-at-home parents.

The iPhone was cool, up until yesterday. But today, there's a new phone in town, and if you ask me, it just took the title.

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