At the start of this millennium BlackBerry did something amazing. They mobilized email. At the time it was rare to see a holstered RIM 850 or RIM 950 handheld …because the people who owned them were addicts. They were always sending and reading email on their devices. Ultimately this addictive nature of the product is what inspired Kevin to start CrackBerry in the first place.  That was a long time ago.

But we all know what happened after the iPhone and Android hit the market. BlackBerry started losing customers. Die hard messaging fanatics still prefer BlackBerry, but too many people have decided that they prefer a huge app store. And until recently, BlackBerry was isolated to BlackBerry hardware.  But not anymore. Now that BBM has gone cross platform, a whole new crowd of users has been exposed to the brand again.

Cross platform BBM has been a nice starting point, but it’s not enough. With Facebook buying WhatsApp and adding 1 million new chat users per day, BBM as a consumer tool has already lost the war. BlackBerry needs to disrupt the market with another cool solution, not try to fight a way bigger giant.

I can think of one way to do this. It’s about bringing voice to every email user in the world. This would go way beyond the 80 million BBM users.

Those of you who have read my editorials in the past know I’ve been hoping BlackBerry would build push to talk capabilities, just like Voxer, into BBM.  Sure, text to voice is nice, and it’s helpful for asking my phone to tell me the weather forecast or to voice-type a quick one-line email reply.  But I’m not talking about text here at all.  I’m talking about pure voice.

BlackBerry people appreciate speed. The entire brand has always been about efficiency.  Voice will always be a faster way to communicate compared to typing.  Always.

And now that so many of us use our mobile devices more than our home computers, practically all communication is moving to mobile.  While it’s nice that I can whip off a quick email reply from the lineup at the grocery store or at a red light, it’s still much slower to type (or use voice to text) compared to just … you know … actually just having your voice recorded and  sent as an audio file.

BlackBerry people appreciate speed. The entire brand has always been about efficiency. Voice will always be a faster way to communicate compared to typing. Always.

The problem isn’t technically hard to solve. It’s just that there is no beautiful user experience to do this today. I think BlackBerry is ideally positioned to make it happen. 

This idea came to me when I was sitting in my car at a red light. I got an email from a client who had a problem that needed solving.  It was a very typical problem, but it would take me a couple of minutes to type out the answer.  Dictating using voice-to-text would be a bit faster, but still requires me to check the words that appear on the screen.  Too slow.  At that moment I wished my email app had a simple way to hold down a button, talk, and have the audio automatically injected as an attachment. 

Today’s solution, if you want to send voice, is to go into the voice recorder. Then record your answer. Then compose an email and then attach that audio file to the email. There is a reason nobody does this.  It’s too slow.  But anyone who’s used Voxer to chat in a walkie-talkie format knows how quick and awesome it is. This tool needs to exist for email.

I’d love to see BlackBerry put a button right in the email client, and this button would be called something like “send with voice” or “reply with voice”. If we were composing an original email we’d still have to manually add the recipients and type the subject line.  But the body of the email would allow for a simple press-and-hold recording of a voice message.  It would be totally simple to use.  


Press.  Talk.  Release.  Send.

The recipient wouldn’t have to be my BBM buddy, or friend on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.  It would just work like email, and it would be available to anyone in the world who already uses email.

The magic would be in making this work cross platform. work cross platform. BlackBerry to BlackBerry messages are not that common anymore because of low market share

The magic would be in making this work cross platform. BlackBerry to BlackBerry messages are not that common anymore because of low market share. So we need something that Android, iPhone and even desktop email users can still work with. The quality of the experience has to get better, not worse.

I see two possible solutions here.  

For messages that arrive on a non-BlackBerry, the audio file could be converted into a web link that takes you back to a cloud-hosted service similar to how SpeakPipe  or Soundcloud works, perhaps with some added security features. The other option, which I see being done in parallel, is to drop a link in the email that references a BlackBerry application (running cross platform) that would integrate with the email client of the phone to support playing of audio messages right inside the email client. 

In a world where we still send TONS of email, and we are always on the go, we don’t always have time to stop and type out the details that we’d really like to communicate.  But talking is easy. Just ask my wife.  I practically never stop talking.

I’d love to see email transform from text and HTML into something that also makes use of audio.  

If BlackBerry makes this happen I think they can re-ignite their image of giving us awesomely fast ways of communicating.

How could they get it done?  They should buy Voxer. Then they should implement a push-to-record button in the email client and give users an easy way turn voice emails (which I’ll call talk-mail) and convert them to real-time walkie-talkie-style communication just like Voxer does so well today.

Maybe the new slogan can be, “BlackBerry. Talk to me.”