The Painfully Slow Death of RIM (Research In Motion)

Intense title, right? Yeah, that ought to get the juices flowing. I believe it is true that Research in Motion (RIM)’s best days may be long gone. Now hear me out and if you disagree then comment away!

Is it just me, or does Mike Lazaridis look like he is going to cry in this video? It seems like a rather straight-forward question that any powerhouse CEO would easily be able to tackle. My theory is he has a lot to worry about right now and here’s why:

1. The BlackBerry PlayBook is Unbelievably Bad

Don’t take it from me, here is a nice summary of PlayBook reviews.

I have always held a certain special hatred for the BlackBerry (BB) operating system. In one of my past jobs I was given a BB for free (including the plan) so I used it. Everyday I waited for the day that I would be “forced” to get a better phone when I was no longer able to get the BB for free. Such a glorious day it was when I picked up my iPhone 4!

Don’t tune out yet. Yes, I own an iPhone – but I am not a fanboy. In fact, I am already considering getting an Android phone next because of the “my-way-or-the-highway’ locked-down nature of the iPhone (no different than the BB). But I digress.

2. The BlackBerry Operating System is SO bad

Did I already say that? I suppose I did, but it requires more depth. A successful phone these days is about the user-experience. It’s about the ability to customize (ahem, Apple could learn a thing or two here *hint: we shouldn’t have to jailbreak!), a sleek interface, a smooth powerful system and a diverse application offering. The BB OS has done little to innovate in any of these categories. The only reason it hasn’t disappeared already is because of its brand.

3. The Brand will only carry you so far

Consumers are always rational and make informed decisions when purchasing products, right? Wrong. Purchase decisions are made largely based on intangibles like brand recognition and loyalty. This is why many people turn a blind eye to BB’s flaws. Many BB users are beginning to see the light, however. It used to be that the only positive thing I would hear about BBs would be “that is has BBM” or “that it is produced locally”. I hear less and less of those arguments everyday as people are slowly starting to see that there are simply better options out there.Don’t get me wrong, BBs used to be the best thing on the market – but that time has long past and it is time to let go.

If I had a lot of money (unfortunately, I do not), I would short BB stock and wait 20-30 years. Given their size and the apparent power of their (obsolete) brand it will take a LONG time for BB to disappear and perhaps they will never truly disappear. Perhaps they can continue to find business in other parts of the world where consumers are less picky. As far as I’m concerned, though, BB is starting to show signs of a terminal illness beginning to spread beneath its shiny black surface.

A great article that builds on what I have mentioned here: http://www.slate.com/id/2291255/

Feels good. I’ve been meaning to get a summary like that out for a while. Some of you disagree, I’m sure. Feel free to comment. But please, no more “but it has BBM!”

Update: It’s happening even faster than I imagined. See this Globe and Mail article

Another Update: looking like I was right http://gizmodo.com/5922154/rim-cutting-5000-jobs-and-pushing-back-bb10-in-disastrous-quarter

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7 thoughts on “The Painfully Slow Death of RIM (Research In Motion)

  1. It’s Mike not Mark. Do you know who RIM’s largest customer is? It’s the DoD. There are many large security and other institution that use their products and specialized accessories that no other company will come close to. Therefore I don’t see RIM “dying” anytime soon. The BlackBerry was only recently designed for consumer preferences (storm, torch). I personally love my torch and am looking forward to my PlayBook on Tuesday. Enjoy your kitty launching apps.

    M

    1. Good point Matt. It is true, RIM is still very dominant in markets that are looking for security like big corporations (although the company I work for provides iPhones to their employees). Realistically, I probably exaggerated in the post a bit. RIM is HUGE and will likely continue to dominate in various markets. I do believe, however, that in the consumer space RIM is on life support.

      It’s funny you mention a kitty launching app. The best part about the AppStore is that, I don’t know for sure if that app exists, but since you can find EVERYTHING under the sun there, there’s a good chance someone has designed a game just like that. Think about any conceivable thing you want to do with your phone (games, productivity, functionality) and there’s an app for that.

  2. You’re way off Dave.
    As you know, I used (and still do on occasion) Symbian and Android devices before I got my BB. For all the usability of a Nokia and all the innovation of an Android device, I would vouch for the BB. Simply because unlike those platforms, the BB has applications and a functionality that better serves my needs.

    My main beef with Android is that it is largely unsupported, at most times Google seems to have ADD when it comes to developing the platform, no clear direction, vision or form. This can be a good thing, if you have lots of indie developers who are loyal, Android doesn’t. Eg: I bought the Nexus One (the one you saw) and have been waiting for >1 year for google to decide on adding new functionalities eg, messaging services, doc editors etc. Worst of all Android has no influence over the build of the phone itself, so you get badly built devices (low sound, bad screens, ugly) with the software.

    The BB on the other hand, gave me a sturdy phone (Torch) with a decent platform, apps I use, a good camera etc. For me it’s a no brainer. For the majority of people the biggest draw of the BB is, and will be for sometime, BBM.
    The service (BBM) acts like a mini facebook, allowing you to get back in touch with lost friends (13 and counting) with a shared, exclusive mode of communication. Yes there are imitators (eg Whatsapp), but BBM is a brand in it’s own right and using anything else for the same purpose is, to a lot of people, buying fake branded stuff.

    1. Thanks for the comment Gautam. I agree that Android is currently a bit of a mess right now. I think its biggest strength is how open it is and unfortunately there will be some instability as a result.

      To be fair I think we need to compare apples to apples. In other words, we need to compare closed-down operating systems to other closed-down operating systems. So, BB OS vs. iOS.

      When you compare these two operating systems there is a clear difference in the amount of polish. Some people think the iPhone is just for fun – it’s their way of trying to justify why the BB OS is so much less user-friendly. The reality is that the OS makes up 80% of the user-experience so it is of utmost important that it is responsive, sleek, polished and functional. Having used a BB for several years and now having owned an iPhone for a year I can say that there is no comparison.

      So I agree, there are certainly benefits to BB OS over Android (but Android is great for its openness, not it’s polish) whereas comparing apples to apples (BB OS to iOS) I think the BB OS has a lot of catching up to do.

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