What does the BlackBerry Storm mean for RIM, Verizon Wireless?

I might not be a fan of the Storm but that doesn’t mean it won’t be flying off the shelves come tomorrow. You see, it’s not meant to be a gadget lover’s device. Just hear me out then flame away if you feel the need to. RIM felt the urgency to fill the gap between they’re entry level Pearl phones and their higher-end Bold. They obviously felt threatened by Apple and rightfully so. Hell, everyone else did and they began pumping out all sorts of touch-screen devices to combat Apple and everyone has failed. As I said in my review, the Storm is at the top of that pile but that means nothing at this point.

But I give RIM some credit for taking the touch-screen in a different direction. It is in no way, shape or form useful or efficient, but they certainly thought outside the box. For better or worse is not up for judgment here. They didn’t try to imitate, which I applaud them for. You simply cannot beat the iPhone’s overall UI and ease of use. Sure, I have my issues with the iPhone but it’s very user friendly.

The general consumer wants the iPhone or a device very similar to it. By general consumer I’m talking about your Average Joe. I’m not referring to readers of CrunchGear or other tech blogs. We’re a little more savvy than that and pick our devices based on minute details and don’t fall for the hype (for the most part). For example, look at how well the Samsung Instinct is selling for Sprint. People see a touch-screen device and think it’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. It doesn’t have to be an iPhone anymore. It was just the catalyst.

Getting back to the original question, what does the Storm mean for RIM and Verizon?

Well, RIM finally realizes that their lineup of devices appeal to a broader audience and that’s evident with the Curve and Pearl series (more so with the flip Pearl). And the Storm is the ultimate culmination of this even though it falls flat on its face from a tech lover’s perspective. It seems forced because RIM generally puts out very good hardware. On the flip side, this is their first foray into the touch-screen realm and I have no doubt that they will improve upon the Storm should they choose to release another touch-screen device.

What RIM really needs to focus on is the OS. They cannot rest on their laurels because Android and Apple are catching up and will soon overtake them. Think about the Application Stores, for example. The closest parity I can see is with the ringtone market. The ability to customize your own phone to give it a personality was uncanny at the time and the same goes for the ability to add applications. The BlackBerry is, however, a messaging device first and foremost. It’s meant for e-mail and the enterprise side of things, but Apple and Android have pushed them into the mainstream whether they like it or not. They must get up to speed in this area or they will lose even more market share as time goes by.

Verizon has always had a stable of less than stellar devices but they’ve picked up the pace since they lost the iPhone. They can tout the largest network in America, but that means nothing when you have a sub-par selection of devices. Verizon did a good job of not messing with the Storm as they generally do on other devices. Of course, there is no Wi-Fi and the GPS is locked into VZ Navigator. That was to be expected so it comes as no shock to me, but Verizon chose not to include their music app, which comes as a shock. How much time and money have they spent in the last year to build their music store? I hope it’s coming to the Application Center very soon.

At $200 most consumers will see that it’s the same price as an 8GB iPhone 3G and assume it does the same thing because it has a touch-screen. Those who are strapped to Verizon will surely upgrade and be done with it. The Storm will sell and it’s going to sell very well.