RIM’s big announcement on Sunday, where they named their former COO of Products and Sales Thorsten Heins as President and CEO, may not be the seismic change that Blackberry fans have hoped for. Many voices of the blogoshpere are openly wondering about the decision to appoint someone who has been long ingrained with the RIM culture, especially with many speculating that what RIM really needs is a big shake-up to stay competitive with “the other fruit company”.
It’s no secret that RIM has lost substantial market share recently. Some have switched to Google’s Android, but even more have swapped for Apple’s sexy consumer-oriented iPhone 4S. The Blackberry interface has publicly lagged when compared to Apple’s slick and user-friendly features (like Siri, for example). Apple is known as the master of the “big show”: updates to the popular iOS and hardware are released regularly and with much fanfare, and their fans wait with bated breath. RIM’s OS fiasco has been just the opposite; if people have been holding their breath waiting for a Blackberry 10, they‘re likely turning purple as the product has missed its shipping date several times.
Additionally, Apple and Android have embraced open platforms that allow millions of developers to create apps for the platform, and RIM’s closed system seems geriatric in comparison. To be competitive in this market, RIM should embrace the developer community and leverage their as-yet-untapped creativity.
With all this said, is RIM dead? Queue “taps” and bow your heads. But not so fast, my friend! To quote Monty Python: RIM isn’t dead, it’s probably just “resting”. As a matter of fact, my wife is being issued a new Blackberry this week at her new job. She’s just one of the millions of other people in the finance industry, or who works in sales, that can’t properly do business without real-time email updates. So, keep in mind that Blackberry still has two crucial things going for it: 1) Push email 2) The Glacial Pace of Corporate IT.
Push email seems so simple, right? As soon as I get an email, just push an encrypted version to my phone and alert me. This feature is so simple that I was certain every phone would have it by now; but the bottom line is, they just don’t. There are a lot of hacks to try to emulate this feature, like polling for email at regular intervals, or bolt-on alert systems, but all fall short of RIM’s simple yet uber-practical business solution. This is a real strength of RIM’s, and there’s a lot of market share reliant on this technological edge they provide.
The glacial pace of corporate IT may also work wildly in RIM’s favor. A large corporate IT department cannot keep pace with the changes and updates of the faster moving technologies, and therefore they can’t be used in big business solutions. This, coupled with security concerns in these more open platforms, makes RIM still the logical choice for big companies.
What does it all mean? Not as much as you would think. RIM will hang around, still being very profitable as long as they have big companies. And as long as they are around and have cash flow, they always have the opportunity to make big moves that could bring back their former glory. One great new feature, one game changing handset, and they are on top again. However, rumors that they may shift focus to the consumer market indicates that RIM may not be playing to their business-focused strengths. Don’t count the Canadians out quite yet – with some decent leadership and innovation, RIM definitely still has the potential to surprise and impress us.