The CrackBerry forums are full of people who are very passionate about BlackBerry. We all have our opinions on what BlackBerry is doing right, where they have weaknesses, and what they should be doing to improve their current situation. We love hearing your ideas, theories, and suggestions, and decided to give you all a chance to not only openly share your thoughts, but have a chance at winning some one-of-a-kind prizes.

We held a little contest in the forums asking readers to write an essay with their thoughts on what they believe should be the next steps BlackBerry should take. After some deliberation, the CrackBerry team has picked out their two favorites, the authors of which will be receiving some sweet custom CrackBerry clocks. You can find the winning entries below (in no particular order), and if you're interested you can check out all of the entries over in the forums. Congrats winners, and thanks to everyone that entered.

The winners are...

First we have an entry from long time member FlashFlare11.

The company must act swiftly and smartly if it hopes to stand a chance
2013 has turned into a year of new beginnings for Research in Motion. Amongst a change in name to “BlackBerry”, January saw the company launch a new platform, BlackBerry 10, in an effort to reclaim the dominance the company once enjoyed in the past. While 2011 and 2012 were years of tension for the company, for many fans and analysts, 2013 looked to be the year of BlackBerry’s turnaround. Now, almost eight months in, BlackBerry finds itself in a position not unlike the one it found itself in just one year ago. The company must act swiftly and smartly if it hopes to stand a chance in a market dominated by hardware and software juggernauts. In order to secure a promising future, BlackBerry must use its past as a guide, focus on its assets, and seek partnerships to compensate for in-house weaknesses. The company must look ahead to secure a future.

During much of BlackBerry’s struggles in 2012, the company, stock analysts, and fans alike looked to one thing amidst a falling stock price and negative media sentiment to give hope; the eventual launch of BlackBerry 10. The brand new operating system was looked at as a savior of sorts that would solve much of the company’s problems and reverse its downward trend. Fast forward one year and the situation is much the same, if not, even more grim.

The current state of BlackBerry is down to BlackBerry’s execution during the launch of BlackBerry 10 and not so much the operating system itself. While the OS has its fair share of deficiencies and a smaller number of apps in its app store, BlackBerry 10 was met with much praise from tech media and users alike. The problem with BlackBerry 10 adoption is awareness and positive brand reputation, or the lack thereof. While it is quite a feat to produce an operating system with so much appeal in such a short span of time (two years), it makes no difference if the public is not aware that such a product is available to them. While this is a large problem, it is microcosm of a much larger issue BlackBerry must face; its own past. Historically speaking, BlackBerry has always been a rather conservative company. Despite having a wide array of critically-acclaimed products, BlackBerry has seldom felt the need to get its name in the public’s mind. While the effort to spread the word about BlackBerry 10 was apparent to its most ardent fans, it was not so to much of the public. This is a battle from BlackBerry’s past and it must, in a sense, “come out of its shell” and be fearless in exerting itself.

For BlackBerry, "coming out of its shell" has more than one meaning.
For BlackBerry, "coming out of its shell" has more than one meaning. While it certainly must step-up its effort to remain relevant in the public's mind, it must also take chances with new products. Upon reading several reviews of BlackBerry 10, it became clear that many saw the changes within BlackBerry 10 as an effort to "reinvent the wheel just for the sake of it." In other words, BlackBerry built upon existing OS functions, however, it is lacking one powerful, exclusive feature. In BlackBerry's past, this was normal. However, today's mobile space is filled with players testing and releasing features not seen on competing systems. BlackBerry must be more willing to experiment and take risks with its products. Even an imperfect first-generation implementation that brings along new technology is superior to not having the functionality at all.

BlackBerry’s past plays an integral role in how people today perceive its products. In its heyday, BlackBerry devices were carried by some of the world’s most powerful, influential, and intelligent people. In more recent times, consumer devices have penetrated this space to the point where the line between “consumer” and “business” has blurred. Consumer devices are dominating the corporate space. BlackBerry’s past as a “business-only” device is hurting BlackBerry 10 adoption as people want a “work and play” device. The company is working hard on changing this sentiment but until it reverses, BlackBerry will face continuous pressure on this front.

Having faced numerous delays and setbacks over the last couple of years, BlackBerry’s brand, at least in the United States, is not as respected as, say, even three years ago. This is one area over which BlackBerry exerts total control and must learn to hold onto its credibility more tightly. The company can no longer afford product or update delays, as well as other backtracking of any sort. Negative sentiment around the brand is most assuredly hurting BlackBerry 10 devices in the market.

No company can be “everything”, and BlackBerry is no different. It is a company that is founded on its strengths in communications, messaging, and productivity technology. In order to more solidly grow, BlackBerry must first perfect its core strengths. It must first dominate in one area entirely before moving to conquer other areas. It must stay true to its core and make the messaging and communications part of BlackBerry 10 the best on the market. Doing this will at least allow the company ability to boast, without question, that it has the strongest messaging platform on the market.

Adding to the superiority of messaging and communication, BlackBerry has always been a company that delivers products based on superior "user experience." It is this experience that keeps the allure of BlackBerry devices intact and one that, if improved, will bring people to BlackBerry. The company needs to maintain that a superior user experience is more important than a physically "high-specced" device. The focus on experience has and should continue to be a high priority for the company.

While BlackBerry certainly has its assets, it has its shortcomings as well. BlackBerry 10 suffered in reviews due to things like poor camera quality, poor maps solution, and the like. When it comes to things like this, BlackBerry should seek partnerships outside of the company to rectify these issues. For example, for the camera, partner with a company like Canon. It is true that TomTom powers the Maps application on BlackBerry 10, but it should certainly be improved and if TomTom is not cutting it, go to Magellan or someone else. The point being is that BlackBerry cannot be strong at everything, and for its weaknesses, it should seek help in order to gain footing in the market again.

BlackBerry 10 proved to be a major step in the correct direction in turning around a company many deemed "dead" just one year ago.
BlackBerry 10 proved to be a major step in the correct direction in turning around a company many deemed "dead" just one year ago. While the operating system itself was a fantastic starting point, the company's execution following the launch could be said to have hindered potential success. BlackBerry must now focus upon improving BlackBerry 10, but more importantly, how the public perceives its products and the company itself. It must battle its past demons and use its history as guide for the future. BlackBerry must be willing to take more risks, both marketing-wise and feature-wise. Finally, the company must build upon its strengths and nullify its weaknesses through meaningful partnerships. This company has great potential and its success hinges upon the decisions that are made right now. For BlackBerry, execution is the key.

Our second winner is newcomer Daniel K2.

The question on the BlackBerry next point is ambiguous - what is best for the current users is not necessarily best for the company or shareholders.

BlackBerry needs to be opportunistic and attentive
Company-wise, BlackBerry needs to shy away from the "bold strategies" as in volatile markets any strategies will be generally useless. Instead, BlackBerry needs to be opportunistic and attentive to bright spots inside the portfolio that can be nurtured for growth.

One bright spot is BB10 OS and its associated GUI. Whether the new design was developed organically or came from acquisition of TAT does not matter as much as ability of BlackBerry to keep it clean and evolve it. There are many obvious areas for improvement - from new gestures on unused top or side bezel areas to addressing the Achilles heels of touchscreen devices like inability to fast-scroll the page. Small changes can go a long way here - for instance, figuring out how to make copy-paste work in a seemless way or improving an average typing speed.

A second bright spot lies in the ability of BlackBerry OS to run Android apps in the virtual machine. Right now this experience generates very positive response from enthusiasts, but remains essentially half-baked; not only a user has to deal with sideloading, but also the sandbox is far from a virtual Android phone, with many Google-specific functions missing. The lesson here is that there are a few key applications that generate much loyalty from user base that are present on Android but not BB10. As much as Blackberry would like to get those apps as native, it may not happen for competitive or business focus reasons, so it's left for Blackberry to emulate the Android runtime environment faithfully and match the functionality from the user standpoint.

A third bright point can be clearly seen in the apps like BlackBerry Travel, Evernote integration and a Calculator with built-in unit conversion. Although Apple iPhone comes in the box almost bare of useful apps, the main strength of BlackBerry lies in building a functional and coherent package for a travelling professional, so small investment into well-integrates functions goes a long way. In many markets outside of US, Blackberry has an image of a business phone, and anything that helps with this image counts.

The last bright point comes not from Blackberry, but from the market. As proven by Samsung and Apple, there is strong demand on the high-end of the smartphone market for top-of-the-edge functions. With respect to that, A10 and the like designs are a step in the right direction, especially when augmented by advanced functionality, such as wireless charging, satellite distress signaling and virtually anything the creative genius of engineering can throw together. High-end phones are the guinea pigs of technology development, so it's reasonable to leverage this opportunity.

Investment in legacy product lines should remain very limited.
At the same time, investment in legacy product lines should remain very limited. While BlackBerry Playbook worked well as a test mule for the first draft of BB10, it is rather apparent the company does not have traction in tablet market right now. Whether or not it will be true in the future remains to be seen, but a current decision to stop support for Playbook is financially reasonable.

Without having numbers in hand, it is true to argue whether Blackberry should support BB7 for long, but one important point is to skip the illusion that Blackberry can re-capitalize on the old cash cows like BES and BBM. In today's world of ubiquitous Outlook clients and VPN connectors, an attempt to keep the gates closed is all but futile, so this stickiness is gone.

As a conclusion, the big new things are ahead of Blackberry and the past does not matter much. The company still needs to find its specialty and niche from where to expand into the larger markets.

Honorable mentions go to Brandon8ch and STV0726 for their awesome essays. Congratulations winners! We will be in touch soon to get your information for your prizes.