RIM has been in a state of steady and what seems like, inevitable decline, for about a year now. From a drop in stock market shares, drastic changes in upper management and the latest job cuts reaching up to 5000 employees on their global work force, this once reigning handset manufacturer of enterprise solutions is facing devastating times.
It’s hard to tell exactly when the Canadian company started heading “south”. It was only a couple of years ago that the BlackBerry device maker was successfully cranking out smart devices while consistently upgrading their enterprise class security standards. Privacy and data security still seem to be at the top of their priority list and that’s very commendable. So the Billion Dollar question is, where did they go wrong? What is it that changed so much that they now seem to be in the same state that Nokia is in? It’s come to a point where industry analysts are now wondering if the company even has enough money to stay afloat.
In what seems like an extremely short span of time, the once renowned mobile manufacturer has found itself in dire straits. Ex-CEO Jim Balsillie was touted to have solutions to fixing the issues with the ailing company but in what seemed like a tad impetuous move, he was replaced with current CEO Thorsten Heins. Things haven’t seemed to have gotten better under his supervision. Talks of a Microsoft partnership even made the news but were not verified and the same went for Google and their Android OS also offering support. However, RIM’s current CEO released a statement that indicated that in spite of their current situation, the company was hell bent on taking care of themselves and wished to stick with their own BlackBerry OS rather than opt for third party choices.
What truly puzzles me is that there doesn't seem to be an indication of RIM’s dire state here on the Indian sub-Continent. In fact, it was only very recently that the company launched their uber expensive Porche Design model, the P’9981, into the Indian market. Their aggressive marketing for BBM and the tons of requests I receive frequently asking me which BlackBerry phone one should buy only leads me to believe the biggest losses are faced only in the Americas. The Asian sectors seem to be doing just fine.
Maybe RIM should have stuck to catering to their niche users? The deviation from this norm by pitching what was once the ‘baap’ of all mobile Enterprise and security related solutions to a generation that only understands ideology's like Facebook sharing and torrent downloading, was maybe not such a good idea.
Uneasy is the head that used to wear the crown
Perhaps it all started with the development of the PlayBook? With its many limitations, lack of apps and the whole ‘Android’ support debacle. I don’t think the community was ready for the BlackBerry tablet, although it did have potential but never lived up to it. The Playbook's failure probably affected its image more than the lack of powerful hardware in many of its top selling phones.
There’s also the fact that applications for the BlackBerry OS are ghastly priced if compared to Android or even iOS for that matter. With the coming of BlackBerry touchscreen devices, it also seemed like developers just couldn’t seem to tweak their apps out fast enough to support the touchscreen interface, making it harder to adjust for those who switched from QWERTY. The failing of BlackBerry’s numerous touchscreen devices also contributed to the company's current state of affairs. Delving into the touch and type segment didn’t quite help RIM’s cause much either. The traditional full QWERTY keypad and optical trackpad still seemed to be a preferred choice for most loyalists.
Nevertheless, the shift to touchscreens was vital to ensure that BB was still capable of delivering the latest in mobile tech. With OS 10 (whenever that happens) taking on a full touchscreen motif, it was possible the company could have gotten some reprieve from the losses. Unfortunately the announcement of a delay in the launch of BlackBerry OS 10 is only going to make the situation worse.
I do wonder if perhaps RIM should just stick to what they do best and keep churning out their QWERTY devices. The keypads of which have so far only gotten better. Then again, the touchscreen is the future and if RIM is to stay in the game, they’re going to have to seriously overhaul their OS to keep up with the competition.
The BlackBerry, with all its limitations should have stayed put. It was designed to be an enterprise device and still performs that function better than most. The basic functionality of the BlackBerry OS has drastically improved over the last few years up to OS 7 and that’s all a user could have hoped for.
Despite having such complete domination over a niche, RIM decided to go in the opposite direction. They have forever been a company known and renowned as a specialist in the enterprise space with water tight security solutions in the mobile domain. It seems likely that because of their recent sideways leap to cater to the average individual with high end media and BBM as a major USP for their handsets, that their legacy has been diminished to an extent. The ridiculous “BlackBerry Boys” commercials that went from bad ... -
... to worse ... -
...and others that only focus on BBM would make you wonder if that’s all that’s left of the BB legacy - a teenager's plaything?
We have been privy to the falling of eras in the mobile kingdom. It’s not something I find privileged to have been around for. Major players like Nokia who have served us well in the past have been usurped by Google and Apple, and enterprise giants like RIM have been reduced to nothing more than a singular feature that was never its core to begin with.
It’s a pity for RIM, instead of keeping up with the times in their speciality zone, they chose an alternative that perhaps hasn’t sat too well with the loyalists. They gained a new set in their stead but one that has no need for their particular expertise. Nokia, might still just make it out alive with Microsoft's backing, maybe RIM could be the next in line?