On Berries and Research

On the news that Research In Motion’s Co-CEO’s may lose their chairmanships, it’s easy to hate Blackberry. I don’t want to seem like I hate RIM. I really don’t. The first smart phone I ever owned was a Blackberry 6230 with a Monochrome screen. I loved my blackberry back then; it was the perfect tool for the business professional. Whether on the go or at home I had my email and my browser and while browsing was pretty painful, it was still great to have. A funny thing happened though. In the mid 2000′s a little company from Cupertino decided to reinvent the phone industry and RIM couldn’t have cared less.

To call this a big mistake would give a lie to the failure that has been RIM since the launch of the iPhone.

In the first case, RIM failed to recognize the threat from the iPhone until it was essentially too late. A savvy Waterloo executive team would’ve licensed BES (Blackberry’s Enterprise Email Service) to Apple instead of allowing Microsoft Exchange onto the iPhone. Instead, RIM kept with their roadmap and made such ridiculous quotes that in hindsight they look like the emperor with no clothes. RIM felt that their stranglehold on the smartphone market was unbreakable (let’s face it, in 2006 after the launch of the Pearl, it didn’t look like anything would stop RIM, especially not an upstart). That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The second failure of RIM was not taking the time to understand the shift in consumer need. When Consumers shifted from wanting a killer email experience to wanting a killer entertainment experience, RIM laughed. Well they’re not laughing now as they try to launch every idiotic service known to man. Blackberry music? What the hell was that? Blackberry App World? Very few major developers spend a lot of time building blackberry Apps. When the SVP of LinkedIn was asked about whether an iPhone app was coming at GigaOm’s Road:Map, he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of such an app. When asked about the Blackberry Playbook, he laughed and said “no”.

That’s just it. RIM has become the laughing stock of the phone industry and I hate it. How could one of the best equipment manufacturers with one of the best reputations in all of mobile fail so miserably? This is a classic case of gross mismanagement and failing to adapt to changing market positions.

RIM should’ve seen, after 2007, that they could not compete with the iPhone. Maybe they did, but their response has been laughable. New Berry after new Berry can’t stop the bleeding because RIM has put the same goddamn hardware out for almost 10 years. It’s time to upgrade, but it may be too late. When you look at the numerous outages and blunders, it’s hard to have a sympathetic view of RIM’s plight; they did it to themselves.

My prescription for fixing RIM is to stop making hardware (except for Government) and license the email platform. Blackberry has always delivered a killer email experience and there’s no reason that other devices wouldn’t want this functionality. Berry PIN email is still hyper-secure, but it doesn’t make any difference if no one is using the phone.

RIM is in danger of dying if drastic measures are not taken. Just how many nails can be pounded into one coffin?

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