It's time for RIM to abandon BlackBerry 10 and adopt either Android or Windows Phone
Why? Because the market has coalesced around iOS and Android, and the network effects (primarily, but not only, around apps) those two platforms have created is proving difficult for even a worthy competitor like Windows Phone, which has already been available for over a year, to gain marketshare.
Microsoft may yet pull it off and cement Windows Phone as top tier competitor alongside iOS and Android. If they do, it's going to be in part because they landed the largest mobile phone maker in the world as a partner and are spending billions of dollars to compete. The scary thing for RIM is that they won't have those kinds of advantages to draw on, and that by the time they ship the first BlackBerry 10 phones there's a good chance Microsoft will have made enough inroads that they'll be fighting not two, but three, major players for the allegiance of smartphone customers and developers.
You can dissect the reasons for iOS and Android's success, but short of BlackBerry 10 being some phenomenal leap forward that's years ahead of the competition -- and I don't think anyone honestly believes RIM has the chops to pull this off anyway -- it's just hard to see any scenario in which RIM delivers a mobile OS that attracts significant usage.
Remember that it's not longer enough to be about as good as what else is out there. It's not even enough to be a little bit better, or to be better than everyone else at a couple of things. To have a successful mobile OS in 2012 you have to offer a clear and compelling case for what is distinctly different and significantly better about your platform. I think this is something that would challenge any technology company today. Simply creating a world-class mobile OS isn't a trivial matter; going beyond that and building one that leapfrogs its rivals is extraordinarily difficult. (This is why it was such a big deal when Apple introduced the iPhone.) We already saw what happened to webOS, which despite being well-regarded was simply not better enough than the competition in any meaningful way and failed to gain significant adoption. Is there any compelling evidence that RIM possesses the engineering and design expertise to avoid a similar fate for BlackBerry 10?
Given the low odds that BlackBerry 10 will be a game-changer, what should RIM do? Well, there are a few options:
1. Sell off the handset business
This would be tough for RIM psychologically, but there's no reason for a cratering handset division to take down a company that still has a profitable services business. Separating the two sides would be complicated, but analysts have suggested that given how sucky RIM seems to be at making phones people want to buy, the more attractive long-term opportunity lies with enterprise network services. They'd probably be able to get someone like Huawei to buy it, and get them to commit to using RIM's services infrastructure, to boot.
2. Go with Android or perhaps even Windows Phone
Either option will be a tough sell up in Waterloo, but it wasn't easy for Stephen Elop to force Nokia to abandon Meego and Symbian for Windows Phone, and he managed to push it through. Yes, the jury is still out on whether Nokia's move will be a success, but doesn't it say something that the Lumia 800 is the first Nokia phone in years that people are legitimately excited about? RIM needs to face the same reality Nokia did, namely that this is a battle of ecosystems and not devices.
Besides, when it comes down to it, most people who buy a BlackBerry do so because of its awesome keyboard, BlackBerry Messenger, and excellent (and secure) Exchange support. They don't care about the underlying OS, and there's no reason why RIM couldn't bring those same features to an Android device. (In fact, given how few Android phones with decent physical keyboards there are, there is probably a gap in the market that RIM could take advantage of.) Reproducing RIM's email and messaging infrastructure in Android wouldn't be trivial, but it might be better to direct the company's relatively limited engineering resources towards that more limited problem rather than trying -- and failing -- to develop a full-blown OS. If RIM introduced a messaging-centric Android phone with a world-class keyboard and great Exchange support you could certainly see them making inroads in the enterprise market, as well as attracting renewed interest from consumers.
3. Hook up with Amazon
There were some rumors last month that Amazon was looking at buying RIM, and while an acquisition is unlikely, they could end up collaborating anyway. There's no indication that this is happening, but it's not impossible to imagine a scenario in which RIM, realizing that BlackBerry 10 is a dead end, but not wanting to become just another Android OEM, uses Amazon's fork of Android on its phones and tablets.
Such a move would jumpstart RIM's Android efforts and differentiate it from its competitors, while offsetting some development costs. If Amazon were willing to give RIM some cut of the profits from digital media sales or Prime subscriptions sign-ups generated it could potentially even lead to some additional revenue for RIM.
Amazon loses money on each Kindle Fire sold, so the idea of them letting someone else use their OS for free is not at all far-fetched. All they care about is whether it increases the userbase for Amazon products and services. Do they need RIM? No, probably not. But hooking up with RIM could be a way for Amazon to spread its ecosystem and take on Apple. Not that I see any indication that anyone at RIM (or Amazon) is thinking along these lines, but it's fun to speculate about what they could do together.
Regardless of what they decide to do, RIM has to make the best of a bad situation. These three analyst quotes from a recent New York Times story (www.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/technology/rims-delay-c...) about RIM tell a grim story:
“They don’t have a firm grasp of the issues and realities of bringing these phones to market,” - Colin Gillis, analyst with BGC Partners.
“They can’t get the infrastructure and the operating system ready in time,” - Peter Misek, analyst with Jefferies & Company.
“Waiting for the chipset is a contributing factor in a number of factors that led to the delay. Creating the ecosystem for the phones is the bigger problem.” - Alkesh Shah, analyst with Evercore Partners
Years of poor decisions have led the company to a place where there are really no good options. The saddest part is that given the obstinance of RIM's co-CEO's, the most likely outcome is that the company will continue on the path its on, releasing the first BlackBerry 10 handsets around the end of this year to a largely indifferent market.
From RIM's point of view, they ALREADY support Android since they can run Android Apps.
From the options you offered, Option 1 is a non-starter. The current management team (and board) wouldn't survive the fallout from the beating the stock market would give them, Option 2 is something they think they ALREADY do because they're Android compatible. And Option 3 only make sense if Amazon steps up with an acquisition offer (which may be practical in the future, but not today).
The unfortunate reality is that they can't make a drastic move without jeopardizing their current revenue stream, and I'm sure they're worried about doing that. They survived (and prospered) with industry analysts and the media saying that version 4, 5, 6, and 7 of their OS was outdated, even though people kept buying their devices and sales volumes grew. Why would they listen to us now when we've incorrectly predicted their doom so many times in the past?
I have over 6k contacts in my phone (should prob edit the list), and nothing has ever been as fast or efficient at contact management and dialing as BB. I'd still take a 9730 with keyboard and sidescroll over any touchscreen phone when it comes to managing a large contact list.
Looking forward, BB has meaningful advantages in markets where businesses, consumers, and carriers actually care about limiting costs associated with bandwidth/data use - as well as purpose-designed and built devices for fast, secure business data and voice.
What is the market potential and success model for devices and services for this segment?
Is there a viable business dedicated to hard core corp and industrial accounts (e.g., the DoD still has not approved iPhone) and emerging markets (India, Brazil, etc.).
As others have posted, without a quantum shift in consumer appeal, RIM's prospects in the mainstream handset segment are limited - there is no long-term play in emerging markets, and businesses will continue to migrate to other platforms based on consumer preference - data and security be damned.
I think RIM needs to steal a play from IBM and reinvent their product/service mix - change the company, not just the product. Perhaps exit the hardware business altogether and focus on services (fast, secure, easy email for any mobile platform).
Every time I make a call on my iPhone, I miss my BB. Every time I have to search for a contact in my extensive list, I miss my BB. And every time I have to tap out a detailed email, I miss my BB. But I'm not going to pay for and carry two devices - and my current company has adopted the iPhone... at this point in time, it's hard to envision a way back to RIM.
RIM has two strengths, their services, and their physical keyboards, and I think there is room in this world for both, but not if BlackBerry OS is part of the plan. I think they would do well two do two things: open their services cross-platform and produce hardware running Android or Windows Phone 7.
A huge percentage of the users they lost still lament how they miss their BlackBerry messaging services and email. If RIM made these services available for a small monthly fee on all the platforms (iOS, Android, WP7), they would not only retain customers, they would probably bolster their enterprise business. Locked down as it is, iOS 5 has made big enough improvements in notifications that having a decent BB experience wouldn't be out of the question.
There is a large portion of the enterprise population that never intends to get used to a virtual keyboard. There have been some BB phones with fantastic ones. If RIM could stop worrying about trying to keep up on the OS front they could focus on bringing their clean looking and functioning hardware to the market. The Porsche designed phone is the first non-Apple design to have caught my eye since the back detail of the HTC Incredible (I'm an industrial designer, aesthetics are important). Their is a place for their handsets... if they would run an OS that has a software catalog or a chance of actually developing one.
Here's to at least one of their CEOs getting the picture.
Obviously they want to keep the BB messaging server, BBM, and their security clearance. I don't think they expect a lot of 3rd party app support at this point.
I agree they should drop their keyboardless devices, they aren't competitive, and stick with the physical keyboard devices that they have always made best.
They sure do expect a lot of 3rd party app support (at least they keep telling their shareholders that), but they aren't going to get it. They need that support, though, because as security improves on the other devices, they are going to continue to hemorrhage customers to the other platforms.
For what it's worth, I want to make it clear that I am not anti-RIM. I just don't feel that their current direction will pull them out of the sales decline.
One more note... I have a relative that was acquired by RIM (and, who, sadly, did not find jokes about RIM jobs funny). He is a programmer and after a short period of time, despite a significant bump in pay, he left because he felt that they needed to move to another platform if not multiple and he wanted to be part of a company that was growing, not shrinking. This, of course, is merely anecdotal.
I'm skeptical that any phone with a physical keyboard will be a top seller again. I think RIM needs to define new USPs. This could be done with a white-board reset or a partnership
As an IT mobile professional I get the cost issues, support issues. But RIM does provide a low cost (Free) option with Blackberry Server Express if the full BES is overkill for your environment. BES should be compared to MobileIron, Good Technology is you want a accurate comparision.
You also assume every company uses Microsoft Exchange. RIM provides a solution for Notes, GroupWise, MDamon etc. Do a RFP and compare the functionality compared to any MDM on the market (which EAS is not even part of) and RIM still has the gold standard - bar none.
Don't assume your basic needs are the same as other corporations.
I’ll start off by saying anyone who knows me knows I’m an Android fanboy, but I can’t help but support the hometown hero, I’m also one to often cheer for the underdog (eg. webOS).
BlackBerry Outside the US
I think the situation for RIM is a little different outside the US, or even more so, outside the Tech scene a lot of us are a part of. The BlackBerry is traditionally a business phone. “BlackBerry Internet Service is available in 91 countries worldwide on over 500 mobile service operators”. When I was back in Canada I would often hear business people “oh, send me your PIN” (Personal Identification Number for BBM). Or “Yeah, I’ll ping you later” - something tells me it’s both a play on PIN and the networking name. It's in some ways part of a business culture.
See davidribeiro94’s comment “RIM is still going very strong here in Canada, UK, and a bunch of countries in Asia. Every single week there's someone on Facebook posting his/her BB PIN”.
Back in Canada, 4 of my family members have BlackBerry’s. Honestly, I’m looking forward to RIM launching their BBM app on Android, to keep in touch since my family's always BBMing each other (it’s free, like iMessage on iPhone).
Governments and Corporations
Government and a lot of corporations equip their employees with BlackBerry’s as “work phones”. RIM has nailed that market, and I bet is a significant part of their revenue stream and probably why they aren’t going anywhere. Out of anyone Windows phones might be able to take them on in this area. Those gov/corps don’t want to move away from blackberry because they know it’s secure, it would be costly to change, and mean training their tech’s on new hardware / software to support.
If you look at Wikipedia they seem to make 5 billion more sales than their previous year, year over year. As well as increasing net income at 25% - 50% year over year.
That doesn’t seem like an indicator of a company that’s going away anytime soon. Despite this though, their stock hit an almost all time low of $12/share Dec 20th, 2011. The stock has since been on a general rise over the last month, likely due partially to their announcement of Playbook OS 2.0.
Positioning Themselves - Their Future
I think the general consensus of this thread is RIM has to refocus. Which I think even they realize (In July 2011, they cut 2,000 jobs). I’m not sure if being just another skin of Android is the solution though. They know they've got the business users covered, their challenge is to make phones cool enough to get the general consumer to choose them. They have the best keyboard phones on the market, solid Exchange and messaging, and It’s not like they’re not trying new cool things - PlayBook OS 2.0 looks pretty good, they borrow a lot of concepts from webOS (Card View, Synergy, etc) and ICS: www.engadget.com/2012/01/10/blackberry-playbook-os... .
Or rather, more correctly, QNX evolved into what is now known as "BlackBerry 10." From an article Dec 7, 2011 on crackberry.com, Kevin Michaluk wrote:
"Back at BlackBerry DevCon, Mike Lazaridis announced that the new BlackBerry/QNX platform would further be known as BBX. That was all well and good until a company called BASIS International stepped in and begged to differ, as they already were using the BBX trademark. After a few courtroom spats, RIM was forced to give in and was no longer permitted to use the BBX name.
"As a result, RIM has re-dubbed the next generation software BlackBerry 10. Depending on how you think, there are two ways to look at it. You're either on the 'BBX, X=10, BlackBerry 10... that works' side, or the 'What the hell happened to BlackBerry 8 and 9?!' side."
As if that's not bad enough, Bla1ze reported on Dec 22 that there are now reports that RIM is facing some new legal woes over their use of "BBM" for BlackBerry Messenger. The Bureau of Broadcast Management, which was established in 1944 and later shortened their name to BBM Canada, is seeking an injunction stopping RIM from using the name BBM. Much like RIM's use of the BBX name, the BBM mark has indeed been in use for a while. Stay tuned...
Let us pray:
Our smartphone, which art in holster, BlackBerry be thy name. Our e-mail come, our work be done, on the go as it is in our office. Give us this day our daily reboot, and forgive us our memory leak, as we forgive our leaking apps. And lead us not unto Windows or Android, but deliver us from Apple. For thine is the BBM, the Trackpad and the thumb keyboard, forever. Amen.
BB10 will save RIM for the consumer market, because of the appeal to run Android apps on RIM hardware. But daylight is burning for RIM - they need to have BB10 handsets in the US market before the end of the second quarter this year if they want to survive as a viable player in the consumer market.
If RIM fails to win over this consumer market, then they would probably be served best by walking away from it entirely, and focusing strictly on enterprise solutions, with unimpeachable security for corporate and government clients.
First they started giving out iPhone *and* Blackberry - you could take your pick. And they put in place an official policy to allow employees to provide their own Android device while using the corporate plan. There was a radical shift in usage with tech staff largely going Android and lots of others going iPhone.
And they just announced a new change - no more Blackberry. They will no longer issue Blackberry to anyone, period. And all existing Blackberry devices will be phased out over time and replaced with iPhone, or the user can opt for an Android device.
The reason given is that they saw such a shift away from Blackberry, that it is so unpopular with the employees, that they could no longer justify the cost of maintaining the infrastructure (BES, etc.). The cost of the licenses, IT costs for running things, etc. iPhone and Android utilize ActiveSync, which is already in place. They also have support for other services we use, such as Lync.
We're not unique. I think this kind of thing will accelerate during 2012 as RIM falls further behind the curve waiting for BB10 devices.
Are these corporate liable Android and iOS or BYOD? BYOD has some serious privacy and compensation issues IMO. Why should I give control of my device to my employer? All for the perk of using my own device?
I'd rather be provided the device if the job requires it. If that means a "work" device and personal one so be it - but leave your security and controls off MY devices.
If you feel that strongly then you can use a corporate issued iPhone for work and whatever you want as a personal device. But I don't know anyone I work with who has gone that route. They're either using a corporate issued iPhone for everything or BYOD Android. With BYOD you have two options - put it on the corporate plan and they pay the bill, or keep it on your own plan and pay yourself. I put mine on the corporate plan - why would I want to pay when they will?
If I were to leave the company then I just have to remove the corporate Exchange account from my phone and with it their admin access. Switching back to a personal bill from the corporate account isn't hard either.
They don't have any real control of my device. Yes, they can remote wipe it - but all of my personal stuff is backed up in the cloud on a personal account. Restoring it is trivial - I just did it when I upgraded from my OG Droid to my Galaxy Nexus.
Biggest challenge to companies adopting iPhone is the difficulty in deploying custom application (which is easy for BB and Android) but if they never expect to need it, then there is not really an issue.
I am under the impression that RIM still has this hold on some major businesses. Could RIM use its business sector market share to form a rebirth? Would they be able to force BB10 into the hands of the consumers and let this sectored market share grow organically into the complete smart phone sector?
All these haters and fanboys, yet few pointed criticisms of the BBOS. Their new 4G phones with lots of ram and fast cpus and lots of (expandable) memory are great and I personally have only been frustrated by iOS phones and Android phones. As to why I mentioned above. I am rather tired of people down playing the marketing side of things and (yet again) giving Apple credit for things they merely expanded upon and did not invent.
So what am I missing? What should I be looking for that's so sucky about my 1.2G 4G phone with 768m of ram and 32G of swapable storage? Because I have to say it does everything I want it to do. Tell me what magic pixie dust makes Android and iOS so awesome again? I think people want a big story and RIM is loved by its Millions and Millions and Millions of USERs. Clearly the iMarketing has worked for many people, and google has pushed Android on all of us, despite having put out far more crappy phones than quality.
Hey when is the Galaxy Nexus S 4 Gold Fender Edition coming out? Sort of a joke when you need to download an alternate keyboard app because the main one sucks. And iPhone devotees in my family all admit in confidence that iphone typing really isnt that great.
So what am I missing? And tell me please I can delete all of itunes and my entire itms media library and everything will "just work". I'd like to get some of that SSD space back because itunes never liked to be put on a secondary hard drive.
While young executives may be switching to touch screen phones, for young college going adults and kids touch screens cannot offer the same speed and comfort of a physical keyoard on Blackberry devices.
I myself prefer to use the company provided Blackberry for all things to do with any decent amount of typing while my android is used for consumption of news and videos and tethering.
They can adopt Android or Winphone but it wont be the same product anymore and it will just prolong the death. In one case they will be competing on cost with Samsung. In the other, Nokia. Neither path sounds appealing.
Microsoft has a cash reserve of over $57b and could easily afford to make this move, which would make sense from the point of view of gaining inroads to RIM's enterprise clients and deploying Windows Phones compatible with BES.
What appears to be preventing this is a reluctance by RIM to sell.
This may change if real shareholder pressure starts to form.